High winds, lack of life jackets may have contributed to drownings on Oklahoma lakes

Three people have drowned on Oklahoma lakes and a fourth person is missing. High waves have been reported on state lakes.
BY CARMEN FORMAN cforman@opubco.com Modified: June 20, 2012 at 7:24 am •  Published: June 20, 2012

Winds gusting from 30 to 45 mph and a failure to wear life jackets may have contributed to three drownings in Oklahoma lakes since Sunday. A fourth person is missing.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Tony Richardson said high winds might be a factor in the drownings, but said people should wear life jackets when swimming or boating on the lake always, regardless of wind speeds.

“Life jackets around the water are a must just like seat belts are in a car, especially if you have small children,” Richardson said.

The body of Jimmy Barron, 19, was recovered from Fort Cobb Lake late Monday. Barron was wading north of Goose Island when he slipped off a rock and went under, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports. It was windy and the lake was choppy when Barron went under.

Also Monday, Byron Hill, 15, drowned at Lugert Lake in Greer County, the patrol reports.

Hill was swimming in 10 to 15 feet of water off the north shore of the Fish-o-rama area when he went under and did not come back up.

Another swimmer pulled Hill out of the water, but efforts to revive him failed, the patrol reports. Hill was not wearing a life jacket and the water was choppy with waves up to 2 feet at the time in windy weather.

“You always want to swim with a buddy,” Richardson said. “The main thing is the bottom of the lake is something you can't see, and just because it may have been a flat level surface last year doesn't mean it's going to be the same this year.”

Lakes are especially dangerous because they can drop off abruptly and someone can step in a hole right next to shore and end up nowhere near there, Richardson said.

Winds are expected to be strong again Wednesday, the National Weather Service reports, with gusts up to 30 mph across western and central Oklahoma.

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