June 21, 2012 16-year-old Quentin Boggan of Bonney Lake drowned at Allan Yorke Park.
July 21, 20-year-old Marcus Henderson of Minnesota drowned at Lake Tapps North County Park.
Marques Weekly, a 19-year-old Kentridge High graduate, drowned Aug. 5. Three people also drowned during the 2010 season.
Since these tragic deaths, there has been a renewed water safety awareness taking place on the Plateau.
Dina Sutherland, public education specialist and public information officer for East Pierce Fire and Rescue shared with me that, “In response to the record-setting number of drownings on Lake Tapps last year, Mayor Neil Johnson formed a working group to develop a community-wide water safety campaign, ‘Swim Safe’”. Participating agencies include the city of Bonney Lake, East Pierce Fire and Rescue (EPFR), Bonney Lake Police Department (BLPD), Pierce County Sheriff Department (PCSD), Pierce County Parks, Sumner and Dieringer School Districts, and Cascade Water Alliance.
Although most of these entities have existing water safety efforts in place, this is an excellent opportunity to develop consistent messaging, join efforts for a greater community impact, and enhance or implement educational components in the community and schools K-12th grades.
The education piece of the Swim Safe program includes Water Safety Days at the following area schools tentatively set for these dates in 2013:
April 22 – Emerald Hills
April 22 – Bonney Lake
April 23 – Maple Lawn
April 23 – Liberty Ridge
April 24 – Dieringer Heights
May 1 – Donald Eismann
May 1 – Victor Falls
May 7 – Daffodil
May 7 – Lake Tapps
May 8 – Crestwood
For more information contact the specific school or BLPD Sgt.Ryan Boyle at 253-863-2218.
Sutherland noted that EPFR has hosted two water safety events in the past: April Pools Day and Sumner Splash-Tacular. Although these are reoccurring events for EPFR, involvement in this working group has provided for stronger support of the water safety campaign’s partner agencies.
April Pools Day was April 6, which according to BLPD Chief Dana Powers was a success. The free event included boater and water safety activities with games and prizes. The focus was on open water safety in a controlled environment and was a partnership between EPFR, BLPD and Sumner Bonney Lake Aquatics. Participating children rotated through various activity stations to learn specific swim safety behaviors. It was followed by open swim with firefighters and police officers.
The activities were geared for ages 7-12, but younger participants were welcome as long as they were accompanied by an adult in the water with them. If you missed this event, mark your calendar for these upcoming events:
• 6-8 p.m. May 22
A Swim Safe community meeting will be held at North Tapps Middle School to discuss water safety strategies and kick-off the Swim Safe 2013 campaign. Partner agencies will have booths featuring their water safety programs.
• 1-4 p.m. July 27
Summer Splash-Tacular at North Tapps Park. This event consists of a variety of hands-on activities and games revolving around open water safety. The event is free and open to the public. Participating agencies include EPFR, BLPD and PCSD.
• 1-4 p.m. Aug. 10
Summer Splash-Tacular at Allan Yorke Park. This is the first year hosting two events. Same details as the July event.
What if you are like me? I cannot swim. EPFR offers life jackets at a discounted price of $14 in sizes infant through adult. Stop by their headquarters at 18421 Veterans Memorial Drive East in Bonney Lake from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The wearer must be present so you can get a custom fit.
If you go to the EPFR website there is also a coupon you can download to get a 25 percent discount at Big 5 Sporting Goods. Attached to the coupon is a great FACT sheet about life jackets.
Did you forget your life jacket? No worries! EPFR offers free loaner life jackets at headquarters, Lake Tapps North Park seasonally at the concession stand and there is a seasonal self-serve kiosk at Allan Yorke Park.
I personally have a huge fear of and respect for the water. Chief Dana Powers said in a recent meeting that hypothermia is the biggest problem in the frigid waters. There are new signs in Allan Yorke Park and more on the way, as well as a phone to report an emergency. Please be safe this summer as you and your friends and family enjoy the parks and lakes. And always check the city of Bonney Lake and EPFR websites for the most up to date program information on “Swim Safe.”
Definition of first responder: First person on accident scene: the first person, e.g. an emergency medical technician or a police officer, who arrives at the scene of a disaster, accident or life-threatening medical situation. The first responder’s duties include providing medical assistance and calling other emergency caregivers to the scene. Thank you to all the first responders who gave their lives to help others in this
past week of terrorism and disasters. And thank you to EPFR, BLPD and PCS for your service to our community, including educating us in hopes of preventing disaster on the water.