State officers advocate life jacket safety as temps heat up

Posted: Updated:
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Saturday kicks off Safe Boating Week across Arizona, and officers with the Arizona Department of Game and Fish are stressing the importance of wearing a life jacket.

With some of the hottest temperatures of the year in the forecast this weekend for the Valley, thousands are expected to flock to area lakes.

“In the state of Arizona, we had nine fatalities last year. About a half or third of those could have been saved if they had been wearing their life jackets at the time of the (boating) accident,” said Kevin Bergersen, Arizona Game and Fish boating law administrator.

Bergersen was one of the lucky ones.

Last Memorial Day, while he and two other officers were patrolling Lake Pleasant, their boat capsized.

“The accident was undoubtedly the most violent event I’ve ever been through in my entire life,” said Bergersen.

Bergersen said he plunged 10 feet under water and hit his head before his inflatable life jacket deployed, ultimately saving his life.

“As soon as you hit cold water, there’s that involuntary gasp reflex, and if your head’s under the water during that first impulsive, you’ve got no choice but to gasp in. You’re going to ingest a bunch of water. If you ingest more than a half a cup to a cup of water instantly, over time or one time, you’re going to go unconscious,” said Bergersen.

A demonstration with Bergersen Friday morning at the Ben Avery Shooting Range showed that within a matter of seconds, a victim wearing a life jacket is propelled to the top of the water.

Boaters caught without carrying a life jacket for each rider on their watercraft can face hundreds of dollars in fines. For more information, go to