Law Enforcement Urges Use of Life Jackets While Boating This Summer

Texas state law requires life jackets for anyone under 13 on boats smaller than 26 feet

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Law enforcement is reminding the public of the dangers people may face at area lakes after a tragic weekend where three men drowned on Lake Lavon.

Over the weekend, three men drowned and another man was rescued after their small fishing boat capsized on Lake Lavon. The Collin County Sheriff’s Office said a storm suddenly swept through the area, causing the boat to overturn.

Officials said none of the men were wearing life jackets. It’s unknown if any were on the boat. Additional details about the incident have not been released by CCSO.

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in 79% of recreational boating fatalities in 2019 and that 86% of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket.

With that said, safety experts like Grapevine Fire Chief Darrell Brown are warning boaters to bring a life jacket the next time they go out on a lake. His department responds to calls at Grapevine Lake.

“It’s summertime in Texas, so it's not uncommon for us to have these pop-up thunderstorms,” he said. "We need to pay attention and know what's going on because the wind can get quite fierce, very quickly. And you get some swells or waves generated by the winds. It can get people in trouble quickly."

Brown said it’s important for people to stay weather aware and keep an eye on the radar while boating, paddleboarding, kayaking or even swimming in area lakes.

While winds in some storms may blow at 40 mph to 50 mph, like in the Lake Lavon storm, it’s not enough to trigger severe thunderstorm warnings. Still, it can be just as dangerous while out on open water.

“Just making sure that you're ready because when the waves do come up, they can go from being a nice calm day to a foot and a half to two foot swells pretty quickly,” said Brown.

Texas state law requires that for recreational vessels under 26 feet in length when underway (including drifting or not at anchor), all children under 13 years old must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Adults must have a properly fitting life jacket that is easily accessible.

To see if the life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard-approved, look for a logo on the inside. That means it is supposed to work exactly as it’s intended to. Click here for more information.

In the last few years, Grapevine Fire has been running a loaner life jacket program at Grapevine Lake, where people can grab free life jackets from one of the life jacket trees that have been put in place at various lake park locations.

The Grapevine Fire Department put the life jacket stations in place in memory of James McKenzie, a Grapevine firefighter/paramedic, and rescue diver who drowned at Grapevine Lake while off duty in 2016.

“In his honor, we provide these life vests for anybody who's going to visit our parks because we want them to have a safe, fun day at the lake,” said Brown.

Available from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend each summer, loanable life jackets are available at the following locations at Grapevine Lake:

  • Lakeview Park, 2100 Lakeview Drive
  • Meadowmere Park, 3000 Meadowmere Lane
  • Oak Grove, 2520 Oak Grove Loop South
  • Rockledge Park, 3600 Pilot Point
  • Sand Bass Point, Sand Bass Drive
  • Vineyards Campground & Cabins, 1501 N Dooley Street

Grapevine Fire said life jackets are supposed to be returned to the loaner locations but some get lost. They are always accepting donations of life jackets throughout the year for the program.

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