Possible fines and reimbursement for river rescues

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) – All the nice weather will bring a lot of people to the James River. But if you don't follow the rules, be prepared to pay for a rescue.

Jeremy Vance and his friends are just looking for a little fun.

"I trust most of them with my life. I think we've got enough guys that if something went wrong I'd be alright," he said.

The 18-year old must have not seen the sign warning a life jacket is needed today. River levels sit around 7 feet high.

"I figure we're good enough swimmers, it doesn't really matter too much," said Vance.

The group is sticking to shallow waters near the river's edge, but according to firefighters, when levels are high, that's still not safe.

"Last year we had 78 calls to the river for river rescues. Of that we pulled 52 people off the river," said Richmond Fire Department Lt. Shawn Jones.

So far this year firefighters raced out to the river 16 times, pulling 5 people out.

"The current is moving relatively swiftly here, so this puts the rescuers at danger and also the person being rescued," added Jones.

Richmond police can ticket anyone not obeying river rules. The citation comes with a maximum fine of $100.

The city can also choose to make a person reimburse the city for rescue expenses which are based on the distance and equipment used. Even people, who qualify for a permit when water levels are above nine feet, are responsible for rescue fees. But since 2008 police have only cited 14 people. It was unclear if anyone has ever had to pay for a rescue, but the option's there.

"I know that people are probably out this week for spring break and the weather's going to be beautiful and we want people to come to the river, however we want them to take those additional minutes and think about safety precautions," Jones said.

If you're planning on visiting the James, call for the latest river conditions. Dial 646-8228 and press option four. It's a call that could save you a lot of money. To find out more about the rules on the river, and water levels, you can also click on the links to the right of this article.

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