Drowning emphasizes dangers of Sugar River

ALBANY (WKOW) -- The Albany Fire Departmentsays Ben Belzer's deathwas the first fatality in more than 10 years on the Sugar River.

"We've actually been dreading this moment, we didn't know when it was going to come," Justin Mueller, Albany assistant fire Chief, said.

Just days after Belzer drowned after tubing on the sugar river, groups of tubers are back to relax as they make their way downstream.

Mueller says the conditions Saturday made being out on the water very unsafe because of recent rainfall.

"The water does rise. The current becomes stronger, the speed becomes stronger. You're unable to see if there's any hidden hazards under the water like branches, rocks, shallow spots, anything like that," he said.

Mueller says this is the first time there has ever been a tubing related death on their part of the Sugar River.

While they don't know the exact circumstances that led up to the death, he says a little preparation goes a long way to prevent tragedy.

"Check the water index, if it's exceptionally high, don't go on the river," Mueller said. "If you're still planning on going on the river take precautions, put on a life jacket, you never know what can happen."

He says they rarely see people wearing life jackets, and alcohol is a major concern of theirs on the river.

"While we were on scene, we actually had multiple people with alcohol intoxication needing medical assistance as well," Mueller said.

He says there are a lot of tubers in their area during the summer and he just wants them to stay safe.

"Watch out for everyone," he said. "Have fun but be safe."

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