TABLE ROCK LAKE, Mo. – It is something the Army Corps of Engineers says the public can’t hear enough this time of year: wear your life jacket.
It’s been a deadly start to the season already, there have been at least 12 water-related deaths in the Ozarks since May.
“We’ve had a lot of accidents and drowning fatalities around the water,” says ACOE Park Ranger, Leah Deeds. “It’s been a rough start to the season.”
It’s a storyline Deeds has discussed before, but she says the ACOE will continue its efforts to promote awareness through signs, loaner life jacket stations and public service announcements.
“Here in Missouri, children under seven [years-old] are required to wear a life jacket and everyone else has to have one accessible,” she says.
“But our thought is, ‘if a boat were to turn over, and a six-year-old child floats, would they know what to do if none of the grown-ups popped back up?’” Deed says.
The most recent deaths occurred Sunday. A woman drowned while canoeing on the Buffalo River and a man drowned while boating on Lake of the Ozarks.
On Army Corps of Engineer Lakes — Beaver, Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Norfork – there have been nine water-related deaths.
Three of the deaths, Deeds says, were the result of cliff jumping.
“These are flood control lakes, the lake level varies,” she says. “Over time there can be rocks, debris, sometimes you just hit the water wrong and it can cause an injury.”
A life jacket wouldn’t have helped in every case this season, but Deeds says it can often change the outcome of an otherwise tragic situation.
“It only works if you’ve got it on,” she says.
Just this year, the Buffalo National River implemented a new program that is similar to the one offered on ACOE lakes; children’s life jackets can be borrowed for the day free of charge.
The new program is the result of donations that followed the drowning death of a five-year-old last year.