Rafting Tragedy Draws Attention To River Safety

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Whether it's your first time on the water, or your 50th, the dangers of rapid waters never go away.

No matter what your experience level, and no matter how confident you may be, veteran rafters say safety must always be a top priority.

England's second home is on the water. as president of the huntsville canoe club he has seen and experienced it all: from the lazy flint river, to the rapids on locust fork.

In all his years of experience, there is one thing England has learned when it comes to safety.

"It`s a matter of training and knowledge and learning the risks involved," said England.

In the nearly 60 times England has gone down the Locust Fork River, he knows first-hand how easy it is to become comfortable and complacent. He says a false sense of security can be the greatest harm a rafter can face.

"It's just like any sport or activity you do, like driving a car, if you get complacent, whatever you're doing things can turn on you real quick," warned England.

The unpredictability of Mother Nature has always been what makes rafting fun for England, but he warns it can never be taken for granted. Even when the surface looks calm, dangers can lurk underneath the water.

"You'll get behind an eddy or something and the boat will turn on you," said England. "There can be rocks underneath a lot of times you'll flip and hit your head on a rock. That's why we wear helmets."

England says life jackets, helmets, the right equipment, and knowing and practicing how to get back into an overturned raft can often save a life.

He encourages all novice rafters to take a training course before heading into the water  or go out with an experienced guide.

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