Law enforcement dive team boats to patrol Scioto River during Red, White and Boom

·4 min read
Franklin County Sheriff's office Deputy Stephen Withrow,  who heads the sheriff's dive team, leads media on a tour Wednesday of the Scioto River where they will be patrolling during Red, White and Boom on Friday to keep boaters safe and the waterway behind COSI clear during the fireworks launch.
Franklin County Sheriff's office Deputy Stephen Withrow, who heads the sheriff's dive team, leads media on a tour Wednesday of the Scioto River where they will be patrolling during Red, White and Boom on Friday to keep boaters safe and the waterway behind COSI clear during the fireworks launch.

Several Franklin County Sheriff's office deputies will have some of the best seats in the city for Red, White and Boom on Friday night. But they won't just be watching the fireworks.

Members of the sheriff's office dive team, as well as dive teams from Columbus Divisions of Police and Fire, will be in boats along the Scioto River to ensure boaters stay clear of the waters near where the display will be launched behind COSI.

Deputy Stephen Withrow, who oversees the sheriff's office dive team, said more and more vessels are on the water each year for Red, White and Boom. Prior to the COVID pandemic canceling the event, about 50 to 75 watercraft had been on the Scioto River in the area south of Main Street where the sheriff's office patrols during the event.

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A kayaker on Wednesday floats past the launch area for the Red, White and Boom fireworks located behind COSI along the Scioto River in Columbus. Franklin County Sheriff's office and Columbus police and fire boats will close off the river to boat traffic between the two railroad bridges for the event on Friday.
A kayaker on Wednesday floats past the launch area for the Red, White and Boom fireworks located behind COSI along the Scioto River in Columbus. Franklin County Sheriff's office and Columbus police and fire boats will close off the river to boat traffic between the two railroad bridges for the event on Friday.

With this year's Boom display the first since 2019 and the increasing popularity of kayaks and canoes, Withrow said the sheriff's office is expecting at least that many watercraft Friday night.

Deputies to check for life vests, set boundaries for boats

The sheriff's office meets every boat before they go into the water at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park Boat Ramp, Maj. Steve Tucker said.

Columbus police and fire watercraft will cover the area north of Main Street and launch ramps in that area.

Deputies will make sure each boat has enough personal flotation devices for every person on board and that children under the age of 10 are wearing their jackets, in accordance with federal law.

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"We've never pulled a body out of the water that was wearing a life jacket," Tucker said. "If they don't have one per person, they don't go on the water."

Franklin County Sheriff's deputies Stephen Withrow and Ashley Wilhoit put the dive team boat in the water before leading media on a tour Wednesday of the Scioto River where they will be patrolling during Red, White and Boom festivities on Friday.
Franklin County Sheriff's deputies Stephen Withrow and Ashley Wilhoit put the dive team boat in the water before leading media on a tour Wednesday of the Scioto River where they will be patrolling during Red, White and Boom festivities on Friday.

The law enforcement boats will also be available to help watercraft in distress, as well as perform rescue and recovery operations if necessary. Deputies on board the boats are also equipped with ballistic vests and are capable of responding to events occurring on shore if necessary.

Watch out for falling debris

The primary mission of the deputies in the sheriff's office's three boats and other law enforcement on the Scioto Friday night will also be ensuring that boats don't go past a set of railroad trestles over the Scioto River that act as the boundaries of the fallout zone from the fireworks.

Withrow said embers, ash and debris from the fireworks can fall inside that zone and be hazardous for water vessels.

"It's amazing how much debris ends up in the river," Withrow said.

bbruner@dispatch.com

@bethany_bruner

Red, White & Boom events

• 11 a.m.: The Boom! Street Festival, food and drink vendors, Civic Center Drive and Long Street.

• Noon: Live entertainment, Long Street Stage and Bicentennial Stage (on Main Street), continues throughout the day.

• 5:30 p.m.: One-mile parade, begins at the Main Street bridge, turns north on Front Street and ends at the corner of Front and Spring streets.

• 10 p.m.: Fireworks, Genoa Park.

General information

• Weather forecast: Mix of clouds and sun, high of 91, with scattered thunderstorms. Storms could have strong, gusty winds.

• Parking: Garages at Columbus Commons and Nationwide Boulevard; surface lots on Fourth Street. See www.redwhiteandboom.org/parking for more information.

• Bus service: COTA will offer rides from Columbus suburbs and park-and-rides. See www.redwhiteandboom.org/transportation for routes, times and fares.

• Restrooms: Scattered throughout the area, including hundreds on Broad and Long streets, and at major intersections.

• Missing children booths: Five booths will open at 2:30 p.m. Friday throughout Downtown, at West Long Street at the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks; West Street, south of Marconi Boulevard; West Broad and North Front streets; 200 S. Civic Center Drive; Washington Boulevard; and West Rich Street, across from COSI. 

Downtown road closures

• Through Saturday: Civic Center Drive from Broad Street to Main Street.

• Through 6 a.m. Saturday: Spring Street from Neil Avenue to Marconi Boulevard (one lane open 4 to 6 p.m. Friday); Long Street from Hocking Street to Marconi Boulevard (one lane open 6 to 9 a.m. Friday); Marconi Boulevard from Long Street to Broad Street.

• 2 to 7 p.m. Friday: Main Street from 2nd Street to river; Rich Street from river to McDowell Street; Starling Street from Rich Street to Town Street; Belle Street from Rich Street to Town Street; Lucas from Rich Street to Town Street; Civic Center Drive from Mound Street to Main Street.

• 5:30 p.m. to midnight Friday: All streets south of Spring Street, north of Mound Street, east of McDowell Street and west of 3rd Street.

• 9 p.m. Friday: Broad Street Bridge closes to pedestrian traffic.

Event policies

• Prohibited items: Alcohol, fireworks, portable grills, pools and generators. Coolers filled with water are allowed, though unattended coolers may be confiscated by police. For a full list of policies, see www.redwhiteandboom.org/festival-policies.

• Alcohol consumption: Alcohol can be purchased and consumed at beer gardens on Long Street, Civic Center Drive, Main Street, Washington Boulevard and Spring Street.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Law enforcement boats to secure Scioto River for Red, White and Boom