HOT SPRINGS -- As the Labor Day holiday approaches, Lake Ouachita visitors are likely to increase, so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is stressing safety, particularly the use of life jackets, while on the water this weekend.
Renea Guin, natural resources specialist with the Corps, said the lake will probably have around 100,000 visitors over the holiday weekend and there are a lot of things they should keep in mind while at the lake.
"No. 1 is wear a life jacket," Guin said.
Boat passengers 12 and younger must wear a life jacket. Those older than 12 do not have to wear one, but Guin said that there must be life jackets "out and readily accessible." Life jackets cannot be stowed under seats, she said.
Guin said lake visitors should inspect the life jackets. "Make sure they fit tight. A loose one is likely to fall off," she said, noting they should be checked for thin spots or rips and to make sure buckles and zippers are working properly.
Guin said that while the lake had an overall good season, it did "unfortunately have a drowning."
The body of Grant County Deputy Keith Wright was found in the water north of Mountain Harbor Resort at Mount Ida on Aug. 23, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Wright disappeared July 19 after he and another man dove into the lake while boating.
Guin said they left their boat, and the wind carried the boat away. She said if boaters find themselves in this situation, "head for the shore."
Guin stressed that children need to be supervised. "I see parents at picnic tables while kids are at the beach," she said, noting it only takes 20 seconds for a child to drown, and less than 60 seconds for an adult to drown.
If a visitor does encounter a person who is in trouble in the water, she warned, "Do not go after someone drowning unless you are trained." Instead, the rescuer should throw something that floats to the person. People who try to get to a flailing swimmer risk getting into trouble, Guin said.
Guin noted the flight-or-fight instinct will cause a drowning person to attempt to climb on top of a would-be rescuer.
As the season is winding down, Guin said one issue is that frequent summer visitors get complacent and they might not pay as much attention.
These issues, however, do not mean that visitors should be overly worried while at the lake. "Have fun, but be aware that you are in nature," she said.
The lake has no lifeguards and the rangers on patrol will not be in the same area over the course of the day. Guin said it is up to visitors to keep themselves safe.
Metro on 08/30/2019
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