Life Jacket Loaner Program Starts at Lake Mead

LAS VEGAS -- Crews are still looking for the body of a Chicago man who's believed to have drowned in Lake Mead last week. A few days later, another man drowned. Park officials say both men, in their 30s, were not wearing life jackets.

There are around 10 drownings every year at Lake Mead. A survey last year found only 10 percent of adults on boats and 10 percent of people who swim at the lake wear life jackets.

"I don't think I've seen anybody wear life jackets when I've came here," said Juan Chavez, who was swimming with friends. "I think people think it's a boat thing, not I'm going to go swimming let me wear a life jacket."

Park officials have started a new program to encourage lake visitors to wear life jackets. Swimmers can grab a jacket from stations on Boulder Beach and at Cotton Wood Cove. There is no cost for the use of the jacket.

Christie Vanover is the public affairs officer for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. She says there are some major reasons why a lake is more dangerous than a pool.

Winds can cause a strong surface current that can pull swimmers away from shore. Even the strongest swimmer can become overwhelmed. In addition, people drinking in the sun can become tired and weak before they realize it.

"You feel the current ... I didn't expect the current to be that strong, and I could see how someone, not that physically fit or even a kid, could be swept back, Chavez said.

Vanover says both recent drownings are very similar. Both men jumped in the lake off of a boat and swam without life jackets. In each case, the people they were with saw them go under.

 


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