Life Jackets Save Lives - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

06/09/03 - North Texas

Life Jackets Save Lives

Story by Paula Johnson

For the fourth consecutive weekend, there was a drowning in the waters of North Texas.

Authorities say 28-year old Jeff Conaster was on an outing with a friend. While out on the water, the Fort Worth man stood up in a boat, lost his balance, and fell into the water.

It's believed that Conaster and his friend were drinking. Investigators say Conaster was not wearing a life jacket.

Parks and Wildlife officials say a teenager on Lake Lewisville drowned this weekend while wearing his life jacket the wrong way. The life jacket was placed underneath him in the water around his legs.

As we get closer to summer, more people will be out on East Texas lakes. The East Texas News spoke with a game warden about the importance and proper use of life jackets.

Adults are not required to wear life jackets while boating in Texas, but game wardens strongly recommend wearing them at all times because it could be your only lifeline. Game Warden Shawn Phillips says only 18% of victims in fatal boating accidents are found wearing life jackets.

"A lot of these deaths may have been prevented if they'd had a life jacket on," said Phillips.

However, it's not enough just to have a life jacket or just have it on. It has to be worn properly to be effective and children are often guilty of improper use.

"These children will have the life jackets on them that aren't fitting tight enough and then the child goes overboard. As they're fighting the first thing is their arms come up and the life jacket slides up and their arms come out. We see a lot of that," said Phillips.

When the life vest is on properly, it should fit snugly and will probably be a little uncomfortable. However, that's just a small price to pay when you're dealing with hidden dangers on the lake.

"You can hit a stump just below the water surface, cause damage to the vessel, or it could cause you to be thrown overboard," said Phillips.

Phillips says legal life jackets have a United States Coast Guard seal inside the vest. Not having a legal life jacket on board for every passenger is a class C misdemeanor.

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