Victim: Life jacket saved my life

By Matt Porter

June 19, 2013 Updated Jun 20, 2013 at 12:02 AM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Leslie Meyer's quiet vacation in the Adirondacks turned upside down when she, her son and her dog went kayaking down a river.

"We were out and on a beautiful day and suddenly the weather turned," Meyers said.

The 47-year-old Meyers said the current changed on a dime and the boat began quickly filling with water.

"In between the time the kayak swamped and flipped it was like maybe 30 seconds," she said.

The kayak flipped over leaving her and her son submerged under the water, but because they were both wearing life jackets they quickly floated to the surface.

"I don't know what would have happened if we didn't have those life jackets on," she said.

The law in New York State
This week, two men drowned after capsizing in their paddle boats. The first happened Monday in Otsego County. The second happened Tuesday in Delaware County.

New York requires personal flotation devices (PFDs), such as life jackets, be worn at all times by children 12 or younger in boats shorter than 21 feet.

That includes paddle boats, canoes and kayaks.

Since 2009, all boaters in those small boats must wear PFDs between Nov. 1 and May 1.

All other boats are required to carry PFDs on board at all times.

In Broome County, life guards like Eric Lipski practice water rescues -- including capsized boats -- on a regular basis.

"Once we establish that the swimmer is safe," Lipski said, "We go get the boat. The swimmer is always the first priority."

Broome County Parks and Recreation require all paddlers to wear life vests on their docks and boats.

Lipski said a vest should be securely fastened, but not too tight.

"You want to make sure they're able to breathe," he said. "You should have a little wiggle room up top, and a little down low. But you shouldn't be able to slip it up over their neck."

Lipski said he sees canoes and kayaks flip over on a regular basis at Nathaniel Cole Park, and said people need to be conscious of the changing conditions around them.

"People think just because you're on a boat, you're safe," he said. "Strong winds can easily flip a canoe or kayak, someone falls in and it could end really bad, really quickly."

Resources on safe boating in New York can be found here.

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