ST. PAUL -- Seventeen people have died so far this year in boating-related drownings or crashes on Minnesota's waterways and almost all were not known to be wearing life jackets when they entered the water.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources statistics show the 17 deaths are the most since 2005 and there are still several weeks left of the open water season.

“Any life lost on the water is one too many, and we hope we’ve seen the last of these terrible tragedies,” says Lisa Dugan, DNR recreation safety outreach coordinator. “Too many families have had their lives immeasurably altered while their loved ones were taking part in what should be a fun and memorable activity.”

Some of the deaths were a result of people falling unexpectedly into the water while others jumped in and experienced some sort of trouble that prevented them from getting back to their boat, the DNR says. Wearing a life jacket at all times -- especially important with cooler fall temperatures -- is recommended.

Each year, about 30% of boating-related fatalities happen during the spring or fall when temperatures are below 70 degrees, the threshold for classifying water as cold, the DNR says.

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