Special Report: Ordinance signs along Chattahoochee RiverWalk

(Source: Marla Spence/WTVM)
(Source: Marla Spence/WTVM)
(Source: WTVM)
(Source: WTVM)
(Source: Marla Spence/WTVM)
(Source: Marla Spence/WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – In an effort to lower the risk of water rescues and recoveries, Columbus City Leaders are working with Columbus Fire and EMS to make going to the river safer for locals and visitors.

We find a common trend among recent recovery and rescues. We take a look at what the city is doing lower the risk of drownings in the Chattahoochee river.

So far this summer, a total of 8 people were pulled out the Chattahoochee River during a water rescue or recovery.

Not one person in those 8 was wearing life vests or personal flotation devices.

There is a city ordinance that requires life vests to be worn on the river between the 6 mile stretch of the North Highland Dam and the Columbus Trade Center.

News Leader 9 examined a common factor in the rescues and recoveries— out of the 8 at least 5 people were either new to the valley or visiting.

A few of those victims included 25-year-old Thomas Odom from Warner Robins who died while snorkeling, 23-year-old Fort Benning solider Michael Astiazu. He died just one day after being stationed on post.

And the most recent, 23-year-old Raymond Reese, 21-year-old Kateria Johnson, and their 1-year-old daughter. The couple from Birmingham was rescued, then taken into custody for being in the river with no life vests on.

None of these victims were wearing life vests— many say the lack of signs is to blame.

Many people are also unaware of the city ordinance and penalties associated with it.

City ordinance 14-45 requires a personal floatation device to be worn on the Chattahoochee River if not, you could face a fine up to $ 200 or jail time.

We scoped out the Chattahoochee RiverWalk area and only came across just a few warning and ordinance signs.

Fire Marshal Ricky Shores with Columbus Fire and Emergency Medical Services says that's expected to change soon.

"We'll have several signs back out on the RiverWalk. There will be one near the steps, they'll be two by the bridge area that goes over to the island behind the old power houses, they'll also be one above the area where they're building a new structure of the pedestrian bridge and two on the Phenix City side as well," Shores said.

"So just an attempt to make sure people that are unfamiliar with the area understand that personal floatation devices are required when they're in the river in these areas," Shores adds.

At least 6 to 8 new signs will be setup by the end of the week. Although there isn't a high visibility of signs, Chief Shores says there are already about 15 signs on both sides of the river.

All signs will be installed on the river walk area by Friday.

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