How COVID-19 Has Led to More Outdoor Accidents in Oregon

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Jul 27, 2020 in Personal Injury

bear eating camper trashUnprecedented numbers of visitors, fed up with the isolation and worries about COVID-19, are looking to enjoy a vacation at Oregon’s many beaches, forests and mountains. There is little else to do this summer since most sporting events, out-of-state trips, and other events have been canceled, so camping is especially popular. However, the atypical overcrowding of these outdoor areas has led to an increased number of safety concerns and accidents in campsites across the state.

Rizk Law discusses some of the accidents, concerns to be aware of and some precautions you can take to help keep your summer outings fun and safe. If you were injured in an accident, call Rizk Law to schedule a free legal consultation with a Portland personal injury attorney.

Not Enough Open Campgrounds to Meet the Current Demand

Vacationing outdoors is thought to be the safer choice for recreation for those who are trying to avoid being exposed to the virus. Unfortunately, a lot of Oregon’s campgrounds, impacted by the virus, remain closed.

Of those that are open, many are operating at reduced capacity. Campsites that are available fill up quickly, and in July, most of the open campgrounds have stayed filled to the brim almost daily. To guarantee a spot at a campground on the Oregon Coast, for example, vacationers must book as far as a month in advance.

Some of the visitors who arrive and find the campsites already filled have attempted to carve out new areas to put up a tent on their own by clearing away brush. Some forest areas have been denuded in the process.

Chris Havel, a spokesman for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department said, “Especially on the Oregon Coast and west of the Cascades, we’re seeing a level of use well beyond a normal year. It’s like having the crowds you see for a holiday weekend, except all the time.”

Issues Caused by Inexperience

In addition to the unexpected crowding, there are more families and individuals going camping, hiking and swimming this summer, who are new to vacationing in the great outdoors.

These inexperienced campers have caused additional safety issues, such as:

  • Not wearing proper protective clothing or footwear
  • Hikers, who do not know how to read maps, getting lost
  • Not following proper safety precautions when swimming, hiking or camping
  • Excessive dumping of garbage and improperly buried poop
  • More bears being lured into campsites because of the trash
  • Cars parked in non-designated areas blocking emergency vehicles from gaining access to injured campers

Governor Kate Brown also warns that even outdoors, visitors are expected to wear masks in areas where it is not possible to social distance. Those who ignore this warning could be fined. Ongoing issues with taking precautions against the virus could lead to the parks being shut down again.

Spike in Serious and Fatal Accidents

The large numbers of visitors are expected to continue all summer, but the combination of overcrowding and inexperience has also led to an increase in serious and fatal accidents.

These are some of the deaths that happened this past week alone:

One 19-year-old died in a climbing accident on Three Fingered Jack, and a six-year-old was hit and killed by an out-of-control jet ski on Foster Lake. Two drownings also occurred; an 18-year-old at Willamette River and an Albany man in the Santiam River.

Nearly a dozen search and rescue teams had to be called out to Tamolitch Falls on the McKenzie River Trail, and one individual had to be airlifted after attempting a jump off the high cliffs into the pool.

An overnight search party also had to be brought in to find a lost hiker, and more than 30 people had to be rescued from the Santiam River while tubing.

The biggest danger to watch for this summer, however, is fires set accidentally by inexperienced or reckless campers. The forests, which become especially vulnerable due to high summer temperatures and dried out vegetation, are one careless spark away from igniting a fire that could quickly burn out of control.

Precautions and Planning Are Necessary

Before you head to one of Oregon’s many recreational forests, parks and beaches, planning is not just important, it is a necessity to help keep you and others safe:

  • Arrive early to find parking and have a back-up plan in case of no open spaces
  • Do not park illegally; emergency crews will not be able to reach you if injured
  • Reduce the risk of bears by cleaning up your trash and taking it with you
  • Wear protective clothing and footwear to reduce the chance of injury
  • Be responsible with fires or when smoking; never leave your fire pit unattended or smoldering

Contact an Experienced Attorney When You Need Legal Help

If you get injured due to the negligent acts of someone else, we are prepared to help you recover the damages you need.

At Rizk Law, your initial consultation is completely FREE. Find out in this meeting whether you may have a valid case and get answers to your questions. If we take your case, there are no upfront costs, because we do not get paid unless you do.