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OFFICIALS WARN PARENTS, KIDS TO BE CAUTIOUS NEAR WATER

SHARE OFFICIALS WARN PARENTS, KIDS TO BE CAUTIOUS NEAR WATER

After a rash of water-related accidents in Utah County this summer, law-enforcement officials say parents need to realize water is dangerous for both children and adults.

"Rivers, ditches and canals are not play areas," said Utah County Sheriff's Lt. Dick Casto, who has spearheaded search and rescue efforts for drowning victims this year. "Accidents happen very, very fast. Water poses not only a tremendous danger for children but adults as well."Officials say people need to be alert and prepared for the worst.

"It's probably impossible to stop some of these things from happening," said Utah County Sheriff Dave Bateman. "But people need to think about these situations. It's just common sense."

For instance, Bateman said parents need to monitor their children's activities in or near water.

"Keep close eyes on your children," Bateman said. "You never know what could happen. Just look at what happened last week."

Bateman was referring to efforts by Utah County search and rescue teams to recover the body of Michael Fenton, a 6-year-old from Salt Lake City who fell into the American Fork River after a hiking trip to Timpanogos Cave with family members Thursday.

Since Thursday evening, rescue teams - including divers and bloodhounds - have combed the river between the Timpanogos Cave Visitors Center and the river's lower dam, all to no avail. On Monday, searchers scaled back those efforts, though they say they will continue smaller efforts for the foreseeable future.

Fenton's father, Blair, 39, attempted to rescue him, but Michael is presumed to have drowned in the river, which ranges from 5 to 10 feet deep in places and is running as quickly as 30 miles per hour. Michael Fenton's death is the fourth in Utah County waters since late June, and is the eighth in the state since June.Bateman said Blair Fenton was fortunate to get out of the river before he also was swept away. John Whipple, 38, Highland, drowned while trying to rescue Eric Larsen, 10, Highland, from a culvert in Alpine in June. Larsen died a day later after being rescued by another man.

Even experts are finding the water is dangerous. Search efforts for Fenton's body have been hampered by heavy mountain runoffs, and several divers have nearly been swept away in the American Fork River's currents, Casto said.

"We've had the river against us," Casto said. "One of our divers was washed 100 feet before we could pull him in. He drank a lot of water."

Heavy snowstorms last winter have swelled lakes, rivers and streams and have increased the dangers, officials say.

"Because of runoffs (from this winter's heavy snowstorms), the water is running higher than normal," Casto said.

The American Fork River ordinarily peaks around June 10, according to Casto. "But this year we're still having a major flow, so things are definitely dangerous. (Waters are) way too fast."