Drowning death raises more questionsThe recovery of a 21-year-old man’s body from the Mississippi River near La Crosse is reigniting concern over drowning deaths related to drinking -- and what’s being done to prevent them.
By: Danielle Kaeding, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
The recovery of a 21-year-old man’s body from the Mississippi River near La Crosse is reigniting concern over drowning deaths related to drinking -- and what’s being done to prevent them.
La Crosse Police report Craig Meyers had been drinking before he went missing in the early hours Sunday morning. A city initiative called “Operation: River Watch” has had volunteers patrolling the riverside since 2006 to help prevent deaths thought to be related to excessive drinking.
La Crosse Sergeant Kirk Flatten says despite Meyers’ death, volunteer efforts are working. He says more than 1,400 people have been contacted in the park (not all were intoxicated), and police got involved 28 times. Flatten sees the program as a value.
Already police have had calls from more people wanting to help patrol. However, finding enough volunteers can be difficult. Ge Vang, a volunteer recruiter with Western Technical College, says it’s tough for WTC to find volunteers, since only 99 students live on WTC’s campus.
Matt Vogel is an advisor for “Operation: River Watch” with UW-La Crosse. Vogel says volunteers are welcome. However, he says perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors concerning alcohol need to be addressed to get to the root of the problem. Vogel adds community members also play a role. He says if people see someone alone and intoxicated downtown, they need to intervene, rather than turn a blind eye to the situation. Vogel says that’s challenging and takes training.
La Crosse Police say they need to strengthen partnerships to discourage high-risk drinking behavior.
While some of the bodies have gone into the river at Riverside Park where the River Watch program occurs, the most recent body was found several blocks south of the park, outside of the patrol area.