The Associated Press
EUGENE — A ruling this week from the Oregon Court of Appeals has highlighted concern among safety officials and river guides about inflatable rafts and drinking.
The court ruled that inflatable rafts are covered by the state laws that prohibit drinking and boating.
The inflatable rafts addressed by the court can be dangerous, said Guy Santiago, owner of Oregon River Sports in Glenwood.
"They don't maneuver well, they puncture easily," he said. "We call them disposables."
Santiago told The Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene that he often sees inflatable rafts drift by on the McKenzie and Willamette rivers when he's teaching kayaking classes.
"Often times, they are drinking," he said. "That's a hazardous way to float, but people do it all the time."
One afternoon, Santiago said he had to stop teaching to rescue a family with a baby in its raft.
"We finally had to stop teaching in that area because we spent more time rescuing people than we did teaching our class," he said.
The court ruled in a case in which Clackamas County deputies found a man they said was intoxicated in the Clackamas River with a partially deflated 5-foot raft and no paddles. The man argued that just floating a raft and drifting on the river is not the same as operating it.
But the court ruled he was using the raft for transportation.
In Oregon, alcohol is involved in 30 percent of boating fatalities each year, said Ashley Massey, an information officer for the Oregon State Marine Board.