USACE urge lake safety amid recent drownings

Published 9:00 am Saturday, June 18, 2022

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As the summer starts to ramp up, it is anticipated that more and more people will be looking to spend time at West Point Lake, meaning water safety and awareness are vital.

West Point Lake has already had two drownings this year — 74-year-old Randall Wilson of Carrollton and 13-year-old Makayla Prather, who died in separate incidents.

According to CDC statistics, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for kids under 5-years-old, and the second leading cause of death for those under 18. Additionally, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources recorded 69 fatal drownings in Georgia lakes last year, more than any other year since the DNR started tracking drownings in 1999. 

In West Point Lake specifically, there have been 13 drownings in the past ten years, according to Ranger Mike Linville of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE). While this is a relatively small number compared to other lakes in Georgia, the USACE hopes to reduce the number to zero with its Life Jackets Worn, Nobody Mourns Campaign.  USACE statistics show that more than 140 people drown at Corps lake and river projects every year, yet the number of deaths by drowning could be reduced drastically if everyone would wear a life jacket while in and around the water. Last year alone, they found that 87% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. With it only taking 20 seconds for a child to drown and 60 seconds for an adult to drown, the Corps warns wearing a life jacket buys vital time to be rescued in the case of an emergency.

“It is really important to always wear a life jacket, even if you think you are a good swimmer,” Linville said. “We want everyone to have fun, but safety should always be the number one priority.”

In addition to wearing a life jacket, the USACE urges lake visitors to practice the following safety tips:

  • Swim only in designated swimming areas — don’t swim across coves/out to buoys.
  • Be mindful of all posted warnings.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Watch children at all times and ensure that they are wearing a life jacket.
  • Never rely on inner tubes, water wings or other toys to stay afloat.
  • Reach or throw a flotation device to help someone in trouble, but do not go in the water.

Increased water safety awareness can help ensure that you and your loved ones have fun on the lake this summer and return home safely. Those with questions or concerns about lake safety may contact the West Point Lake Project Office at (706) 645-2937.