SAVANNAH, Ga. — The Memorial Day weekend is historically one of the busiest times of the year for recreation at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ three lakes on the upper Savannah River—Hartwell, Richard B. Russell and J. Strom Thurmond. While the holiday weekend presents many opportunities for families to have fun at the lake, the Corps of Engineers reminds everyone—children and adults—to always wear a life jacket while recreating in, on, or near the water.
Last Memorial Day weekend, three people drowned at Savannah District lake projects—two at Hartwell and one at Russell. None were wearing life jackets.
“Wearing a life jacket can save your life,” said Eric Jeffcoat, natural resources program manager for the Corps’ Savannah District. “It takes an average of 20 seconds for a child to drown and an average of 60 seconds for an adult to drown. Wearing a properly-fitted Coast Guard-approved life jacket is your first line of defense.”
Unfortunately, many people fail to follow this advice resulting in tragic accidents which could be prevented, Jeffcoat said. Last year, the Savannah District lakes experienced 11 water-related fatalities and only one of the victims was wearing a life jacket. Hartwell Lake experienced the most drownings with six, Russell Lake had three, and Thurmond Lake had two.
To promote safety to lake visitors, the Corps has implemented a life jacket loaner program at many of its recreation areas. This program offers a free life jacket for visitors to use while recreating at the lake. Check with the visitor’s center or look for the life jacket loaner displays on Corps’ swimming beaches.
With the prolonged drought and lower lake levels this time of year, visitors are also reminded to watch for hazards such as stumps and debris that may have previously been under deeper water.
The Corps of Engineers’ national headquarters released information this year as part of a nationwide initiative called “Are You Next?” This campaign targets males ages 18 to 35, which statistically is the audience that experiences the most drownings at Corps lakes. The campaign includes boating and water safety tips and information. Learn more at http://www.corpslakes.us/areyounext