Let’s break the streak

by Chanse Watson
Managing Editor | May 22, 2020 10:49 AM

SCSO stresses safety this Memorial Day weekend

WALLACE — For the last four years in a row (possibly even more), emergency crews in the Silver Valley have had the displeasure of responding to a call on Memorial Day weekend in which someone was killed as the result of a preventable incident.

With this in mind, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office wants the cycle to stop this year and ensure that everyone has a fun — but also safe — holiday.

While the SCSO is gearing up for any situation, it is unknown how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect this year’s holiday weekend.

“This Memorial Day weekend is different in the sense that people have been cooped up in their homes and haven’t been able to socialize with their friends and family as we are normally accustomed too, so we (the SCSO) really aren’t sure what to expect,” Undersheriff Holly Lindsey said, “but whatever happens, the SCSO is ready to mitigate any issues.”

When it comes to outdoor recreation in the Silver Valley around this time of the year, the most common activities revolve around motor vehicles (ATVs, UTVs, etc.), alcohol and the Coeur d’Alene River.

Shoshone County Sheriff Mike Gunderson and Lindsey say that while all of these can be fun — making the right choices while enjoying them will go a long way in avoiding injury or death.

“On Memorial Day weekend, we do see a rise in alcohol related incidents including DUI’s, DUI accidents, ATV/UTV accidents and juvenile alcohol/drug offenses,” Sheriff Gunderson said.

The local deaths in 2016, 2017 and 2019 involved either one or both of two factors — motor vehicles and/or alcohol.

To prevent incidents like these from happening, Lindsey states that SCSO will be focusing their resources this coming weekend on historically high-traffic areas.

“We will dedicate deputies to the areas we anticipate will have the majority of citizens and visitors recreating — usually the Northfork,” she said. “If you decide to have a few drinks, or a few too many drinks, please don’t take the chance of driving. Call a friend or camp out at your buddy’s campsite.”

In light of the 2019 Memorial Day weekend local death involving a high school-aged individual, Lindsey said that SCSO will be putting a strong emphasis on youth safety.

“One of our main focuses with school being out and upcoming graduations is to make sure kids are safe,” she said. “Our deputies are diligently searching for juvenile parties with the intent of getting kids home safe to their families. We are taking a zero tolerance approach to kids consuming drugs and alcohol. Sheriff Gunderson made the statement to his staff that he wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if a child died under his watch and with some upcoming emphasis planning, SCSO plans to do whatever we can to prevent that from happening.”

The final major factor to consider when enjoying the three-day weekend is the conditions of the Coeur d’Alene River (North and South Fork).

Both Gunderson and Lindsey stress that whoever plans to be near the river this weekend should be mindful of not only its speed and depth, but also its temperature.

“Remember that the Coeur d’Alene River is high, unpredictable and fast,” Lindsey said. “There also may be debris under the water that you can’t see, so play it safe and just stay out of it.”

With snow still melting in higher elevations of the county, the temperature of the river remains low and has not caught up with the season. Combine near-freezing temperatures with a powerful current and you get incredibly dangerous conditions.

The speedy, powerful and chilly conditions of the river were responsible for the 2018 Memorial Day weekend local death.

SCSO would also like to remind North Fork recreators who like to park on Old River Road between Bumblebee Campground and Albert’s Landing that if you park in an area with a solid yellow line, you will receive a citation and/or your vehicle will be towed.

“A solid yellow designates do not cross or park,” Gunderson said. “There are several signs stating this up and down the river.”

Lindsey stresses that it takes all of us working together to promote a safe and healthy community.

“Take care of each other and stay safe,” she said.

“We hope everybody has a safe Memorial Day weekend,” Gunderson added.