Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Army Corps stresses water safety when recreating

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St.Louis District continues to concentrate on water safety outreach at Rend Lake after the second of two fatalities in 10 days.  On Saturday, July 9, 2011, Terry Abernathy died while swimming in the designated beach area at South Sandusky recreation area.  After performing an autopsy, the county coroner considered it an accidental drowning.

As of May 31, 57 people have died on Corps-owned property this year, compared to 39 at this time last year – a more than 32 percent increase. Most of these fatalities were from drowning. Corps officials report that more than 90 percent of drowning victims at USACE parks were not wearing a life jacket. Such was the case at Rend Lake where neither drowning victims were wearing a life jacket.

“Public safety is our number one priority,” said Maj. Gen. Merdith W.B. Temple, acting Chief of Engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “The increase in deaths at USACE parks this year is of great concern to us. We want to do everything we can to make people aware of potential risks when they visit one of our recreation areas, and how to make good decisions that will improve safety for themselves, families and friends.”

The staff at Rend Lake continuously monitors the safety of all visitors to the lake.  Throughout the recreation season, park rangers conduct water safety demonstrations at the beach areas and boat ramps and are on the lookout for visitors who may need assistance.  Loaner lifejackets are also available at boat ramps and beach areas for visitor use.  Signs, banners, billboards, public service announcements and social media outlets are just a few of the ways that Rend Lake and the Corps stresses the importance of water safety.

"We have what is called a 'Tree of Life', it has a pole and a ring-buoy on it. And we do water safety programs three times a day on Saturday and Sundays during the recreation season. We encourage kids and parents to learn how to use those devices," said Dawn Kovarik, Park Ranger at Rend Lake.

Corps officials encourage visitors to check local water and weather conditions and pay attention to recreation warnings. It’s also stressed that the single most important item a person can do on the water to reduce risk is to wear a life jacket. The Corps will continue its efforts to promote boating and water safety and with the public's support we will work to reduce the risk and save lives.

USACE is the nation’s largest federal provider of outdoor recreation, hosting more than 370 million visits per year at 422 recreation parks in 43 states. 

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