Deputies patrol water during festival

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WHILE PATROLLING Flathead Lake, Deputy Levi Read, left, and Lake County Sheriff Don Bell survey the water. (Ashley Fox/Lake County Leader)

While law enforcement was stationed in and around the Flathead Lake Blues Festival over the weekend, a group of officers took to the water, further offering their services if needed.

Lake County Sheriff Don Bell requested that in addition to the LCSO boat, Lake County Search and Rescue’s watercraft would patrol as well.

“It’s really about safety, so that’s what we watch for,” Bell said Friday evening.

While Chris McGuinness of Lake County Search and Rescue took on duties as captain of the LCSO boat, Bell and Deputy Levi Read waved to others in boats, kayaks or onshore.

Chaplain and Reserve Officer James Pettit patrolled with SAR members David Elmore, Brian Moldenhauer and Bill Merritt in the team’s watercraft.

Bell said the LCSO boat, which the county has had for about a decade, is used as needed and during special events, such as concerts on shorelines.

He mandates that at least two people must be on the boat when it goes out into the water.

Eight deputies and Bell are trained to captain the boat through Coast Guard training, he said.

During patrols on the water, Bell said deputies typically watch to see if people are using lifejackets, or if they at least have enough for everyone aboard.

Registration on watercraft is also reviewed, as well as making sure people aren’t consuming alcohol.

Bell encourages everyone that goes out onto the water to keep one thing in mind: children.

Should adults be in distress on the water, Bell said that oftentimes there isn’t time to put life jackets on children.

“It’s like trying to put a seat belt on” during the impact of a vehicle crash, he explained.

Ensuring that children are properly in life jackets helps first responders assist during a call.

“Have the little ones wear their life jackets all the time,” Bell said.

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