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Life jacket use urged by Oklahoma lake officials

Nine people have drowned since May in Oklahoma lakes maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.
By Matt Dinger, Modified: July 12, 2010 at 4:22 am •  Published: July 12, 2010

Nine people have drowned since May in Oklahoma lakes maintained by the Tulsa District of the Army Corps of Engineers. None of the victims wore life jackets.

"It was varying circumstances, but it was all circumstances where the individuals were not wearing a life jacket when they went into the water," Tulsa District Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Sara Goodeyon said.

"A lot of people get in their cars and it's second nature to put on a seat belt. When people are in or near the water, it should become a habit to put on a personal flotation device," Goodeyon said.

Many lakes offer loaner life jackets. Canton, Copan, Council Grove, Eufaula, Fort Gibson, Hugo, Keystone, Oologah, Pine Creek, Robert S. Kerr, Sardis, Skiatook and Texoma participate in the loaner program offered by the Corps of Engineers.

"They literally are hanging on a board. All a visitor has to do is walk up to that board. We ask that when they return it, they hang it right back up on that board," Goodeyon said.

Five types of flotation devices are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Type 1 is the standard orange vest, designed to turn unconscious people face up even in rough waters. Types 2 and 3 are for water sports or calmer, shallow water. The remaining types of flotation devices are designed to be thrown or for other special use.

Goodeyon said state law requires a life jacket for each passenger and a throw device on a boat less than 26 feet long, and all children under 13 are required to wear life jackets when swimming or boating. Additionally, anyone riding a personal watercraft is required to wear a life jacket, as is anyone towed behind a boat. The fine and fees for violating the law total about $100, she said.

Edmond police enforce the state life jacket requirements at Arcadia Lake and write lots of tickets, police spokeswoman Glynda Chu said.

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