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Don’t forget your lifejacket

Profile image for By Megan Gray / Staff Writer
By Megan Gray / Staff Writer

Officials remind people to take proper water safety precautions

Before anyone takes that dive into the pool, or hits an area lake this summer, city officials say understanding basic water safety is key.

This year, six drownings have occurred in the county at area lakes and swimming pools already, Troy Taylor, chief death investigator for the county, said. 

“Last year we only had eight for the entire year,” he said.

Most drownings are preventable, said Gary Johnson, education officer with the Denton Fire Department.

He said the following simple safety precautions, could save a life:

* Wear a lifejacket.

* Learn to swim.

* Never swim alone — always swim with a buddy.

* Swim in an area supervised by a lifeguard and read and obey all posted rules and signs.

* Do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating. Alcohol, Johnson said, impairs judgment, balance, coordination, affects one’s swimming and diving skills and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm. 

* Johnson said children should remain within an arm’s length of a parent or supervisor. 

Children, he said, should be watched around any body of water no matter what the depth. 

“Do not rely on substitutes,” Johnson said. “The use of floatation devices and inflatable toys cannot replace parental supervision or lifeguards.”

Battalion Chief Brad Fuller said the department has two motorized boats — one owned by the state and one owned by the city — and two non-motorized boats to handle water rescue efforts, should they be called.

The fire department has 21 firefighters that are also part of the Swift Water Team for Texas Task Force One, Fuller said.

Being a member of the Task Force and keeping a state-owned boat at the Central Fire Station, Fuller said, is essential in being able to quickly respond to water rescue efforts in a time efficient manner across the state. 

The city also owns an RTV4 that helped aid in a rescue effort last month after some kayakers reportedly went missing along the Ray Roberts Lake Greenbelt; they ended up swimming to safety.

The RTV4, fire officials said, is a utility vehicle purchased for incidents such as the one last month because it has a small pump and water tank that can access areas their traditional vehicles can’t. 

The city, Fuller said, doesn’t have a traditional dive team because the Lewisville Fire Department has one that is willing to assist just 15-20 miles down the road.

“For the past 10 years, our main focus has been our dive team,” Capt. Kevin Brule of the Lewisville Fire Department said. 

Brule said they are the go-to team that assists many agencies throughout the county.

“Much like other agencies have priority areas, with Lewisville Lake being such a dangerous area, we have made our dive team our department’s priority,” he said.

With Independence Day coming up, Brule said nobody is allowed off. 

“We will have a boat manned on the water to immediately respond to any calls,” Brule said.

With 12 to 15 certified divers a short call away during the Independence Day weekend, Brule said they are ready to respond but hopes it doesn’t get to that. 

“Our boats are equipped with sonar radar and once we locate the area, we will dive and retrieve the body,” he said.

He recommends to be familiar with the water and your surroundings. 

“Sometimes you can be in a part of the water and it just suddenly drops to a deep hole,” Brule said.

The best safety advice Brule has for anyone venturing near any water now or anytime of the year is to wear a life jacket.

“I have never recovered a body with a life jacket on,” he said.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.