RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A tragic scene unfolded before noon Tuesday in the chilly waters of the James near the Manchester Bridge. A woman died in the river and her boyfriend had to be rushed into medical care due to possible hypothermia.
The James is a popular spot this week because of Spring Break. Authorities are now speaking out about what you need to know to stay safe.
With temperatures getting nice, more and more folks will want to enjoy the river. Authorities say that's a good thing, but if you don't put safety first, a well-intended visit can end in disaster.
"I swim, sometimes swim. I like to look at it, I like the streams, how they go, the birds and everything," said 12-year-old Cameron Harrison about visiting The James.
But when he arrived at the river Tuesday with his mother, he got an eyeful.
"I saw a body over there," the 12-year-old said.
River rescue crews had to spring into action, rescuing a man suffering from possible hypothermia. It was too late for his girlfriend, who was already dead.
During those intense moments, authorities placed crime scene tape across the area to keep passersby away. That's because just below the bridge there were forensic crews getting to work.
"The water temperature is very cold right now," said Lt. Chris Armstrong. "We're in spring, but we haven't had 80 or 90 degree weather."
That increases the risk for hypothermia. It's why Armstrong says river-goers should not only monitor water temperatures but also the river's levels before getting in.
"By law, if the water level is above five feet, then they need to actually have on a life vest," said Armstrong. "If it's above nine feet, they need to have a permit issued by the Richmond Fire Department."
Violators can be fined. The couple involved in Tuesday's tragedy may not have been wearing life vests.
Now spectators are saddened by the events they witnessed when simply coming to the river for recreation.
"It was surprising to see that just coming out here to take pictures of birds and stuff like that," said Jeff Hunter.
Authorities are also reminding never to drink alcohol when taking to the river, and it doesn't hurt to have a cell phone with a fully-charged battery in case there's an emergency.
Witnesses say the man who was rescued is out of the hospital as the Medical Examiner is now determining his girlfriend's cause of death.
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