Lina Vergara’s family hopes lawmakers will take action to prevent a tragic loss like the one they suffered when she died during an unregulated rafting trip in Shawano County.
Vergara’s family and lawmakers introduced Lina’s Law Wednesday morning; nine months after News3 first reported the family’s story.
The 20-year-old was rafting down Big Smokey Falls, on the Wolf River, when she fell out and her life jacket popped off.
In February, a News3 investigation reported there is lack of measures regulating the rafting industry. There is no law that requires rafters to wear a life jacket or helmet.
Vergara and her friend rented equipment from Shotgun Eddy’s, which makes customers sign a waiver acknowledging the river’s risk.
“If somebody would have been there, Lina, I do believe, would be alive today and that is what we’re all really here about,” Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton, said.
Lina’s Law would make helmets mandatory, station an outfitter employee at Smokey Falls -- which is considered the most dangerous spot on the river -- and close it when the river runs faster than 900 cubic feet per second. The bill only applies to the Wolf River, no other state waterway.
“Like Lina would have wanted us to do, we did not let this world change our smile. Instead, we’re using her smile to change this world,” Coni Vergara-Duhr, Vergara’s sister, said.
Two other people died on the Wolf River last year, according to American Whitewater, a nonprofit group that records rafting deaths and injuries.
Hesselbein plans to meet with Gov. Scott Walker and discuss Lina’s Law, and in January, when the next legislative session starts, hopes to get a public hearing and vote.