While it may be tempting to leap into the cool waters of the Columbia River as temperatures climb to the century mark, officials say jumping from bridges is ill-advised.
Not only is it a safety risk, but jumping from the cable bridge and other bridges or structures that span rivers in Benton County also is a criminal misdemeanor, said Deputy Tom Morton of the Benton County Sheriff's Office.
Those who make the plunge can be punished with a fine of up to $1,000, up to a 90-day jail stay or both, he said.
Bridge jumping is not common, although Morton said it happens more often than he would like. "They are just trying to have fun," he said.
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Several Tri-City Herald readers were concerned to see a photo Monday of a man jumping from the cable bridge to cool off.
But the combination of unpredictable river currents, debris that gets stuck near bridges and boat traffic make it dangerous for the jumper and boaters, Morton said.
Morton said there are plenty of legal ways to enjoy the river, with access along the shoreline and parks such as Howard Amon and Two Rivers that have cordoned off swimming areas.
Columbia Basin Dive Rescue has not been called out for to rescue a recreational bridge jumper in the past three or so years, said John Pielli, a spokesman for the volunteer group.
Morton and Pielli urge people to wear life jackets when enjoying the river.
And there likely will be plenty of people out on the water this week as temperatures are expected to hover near 100 degrees, and may reach 100 on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Pielli said he always encourages life jacket use for people who are on docks and boats and those who are swimming.
"You may not feel cool wearing a life jacket," Pielli said.
But, you would feel less cool being pulled up without one, he said.
Most drownings occur with people who never intended to go into the water, including two boys who recently drowned, he said.
Christian Espinoza, 13, of Pasco, was playing in a shallow area of Casey Pond on June 27 near Burbank when he slipped off the rocks and did not come back up.
Just a few days earlier on June 23, Timmy Bowden, 14, of Finley, drowned after the boat he was in sank in the Snake River.
Those planning to swim in the river should make sure they have a plan of where they are going to get out as well as where they are going in, Pielli said.
It is important to stay hydrated, swim with a buddy and look out for each other, he said.
"Really look out for each other," Pielli emphasized.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; email@example.com