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Posted 6/10/2016

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By Michelle Helms, Portland District Public Affairs Office


“I’m hoping you’re going to push me in.” said Ashley Massey. 

She got her wish a minute later as KGW-TV reporter Drew Carney pushed her into the cold Willamette River in Portland, Oregon during his live Facebook broadcast to talk about water safety.

The dramatic demonstration by Massey, Oregon State Marine Board public information officer, was part of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and OSMB efforts to grab people’s attention heading into May’s National Safe Boating Week and to have a conversation about life jackets and water safety.

Carney’s Out & About segment began at 5:45 a.m. on KGW’s Sunrise program with an interview with Portland District park ranger Monty Biggs. 

“Wearing a life jacket can be the difference between life and death,” Biggs told Carney. “Life jackets these days are more comfortable, less bulky and easier to wear than the older versions we all think of when we think about life jackets.”

Biggs and Carney modeled and deployed several types of life jackets designed for various water activities from recreation to work. 

Biggs says people have different excuses for not wearing a life jacket, but the fact is that nine out of ten people who drown aren’t wearing a life jacket. 

“Most people who go in the water don’t expect to,” said Melissa Rinehart, Portland District Natural Resources Manager. “Most drownings occur in the first minute after going in to the water. You’re caught off guard and gasp, it’s a natural reaction, and you get water in your lungs.” 

Rinehart and Carney talked on Facebook about what was happening to Massey as she remained immersed in the river. The water’s temperature was 60 degrees on the surface but much colder a few feet beneath the surface. 

The KGW TV audience watched as Massey struggled to pull herself up on to the dock about 15 minutes after plunging into the cold water. She said her extremities were “pretty numb.”

“I’m starting to stop shaking which means my body is not warming up anymore,” said Massey. “I’m having difficulty catching my breath, my arms and legs are beginning to cramp.”

Massey is a trained diver and has done these demonstrations before.

“You know how painful this is,” said Carney. “Why did feel you needed to do this today?”

“I’m in pretty good shape,” said Massey. “I want to stress to people that when they hit the water, if they have any kind of medical condition or physical difficulty, that cold water is going to incapacitate them completely. They will not be able to pull themselves to rescue, and if they’re not wearing a life jacket they will drown.”

Corps safety personnel stepped in and wrapped Massey in blankets and gave her hand warmers as Carney sent viewers back to the studio where the news team commented on the impact of the demonstration.

“She’s saving lives,” said KGW news anchor Brenda Braxton. “That was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen you [Carney] do.”

Raising awareness and saving lives are the goals of the Corps’ Water Safety Program. Rinehart and Biggs said talking about life jackets and water safety for few hours on a chilly Thursday morning was time well spent. 

“Live TV is a great way to reach a much wider audience and specifically our target audience: men between the ages of 18-35,” said Rinehart.

“We are always looking for ways to grab the public's attention and prompt them to consider the consequences of not wearing life jackets,” said Biggs. “It was clearly an amazing opportunity to be able to conduct outreach on such a platform.”

The audience for KGW’s morning show averages 45,000 people and Carney’s Facebook Live broadcast logged 14,000 views. 

recreation USACE water safety