New Campaign Tackles Rise In Oklahoma Drowning Deaths

Friday, July 1st 2011, 4:29 pm
By: News On 6

SKIATOOK, Oklahoma -- The alarming number of drowning deaths so far this year in Oklahoma has prompted a new campaign to keep people safe.

As we get closer to the fourth of July holiday weekend, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Tulsa office hopes a very direct message will get across to lake goers. It's their "life jacket or toe tag?" public service campaign.

"We're just hoping that gets people's attention, because unfortunately there's just too many people dying out here on our area lakes," said Greg Bersche of the Corps of Engineers.

The Tulsa district, which covers Oklahoma, Southern Kansas, and northern Texas, has had 16 drownings so far this year. That's compared to 15 all of last year.

"We're highly concerned," Bersche said.

2011 is on track to have the highest number of drowning deaths in the last ten years at Corps' lakes. All but one of this year's drowning deaths could have been prevented with life jackets.

"It's one accident that doesn't have to happen usually," Bersche said.

Typically, half of the drowning deaths are alcohol related.

The potential for problems here at Skiatook lake going into the holiday weekend is even greater, because the lake is still about six feet below normal.

Bersche says with so many different sizes and styles of life jackets on the market now, finding one that is comfortable takes just a little effort. Loaner jackets are also available at most Corps lakes.

"If your child doesn't have a life jacket when you show up to one of our lakes, just let us know and we'll find them one," he said.

Bottom line is, it's been a bad year so far... and park rangers don't want it to get worse with so much of the Summer season left to go.

Rangers say it's also a good idea to check the condition of life jackets often. Sometimes if they're left out in the sun, it can weaken the support straps, making them less effective.