The tides of opinions on the safety of Lake Tapps seem to be changing.
Since the on the last day of school in June and , there have been some major questions about what to do to keep these kinds of tragedies from happening again.
There were three deaths on Lake Tapps in 2010, one last year and two this season, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiner. Henderson’s death was the fourth drowning of this year across Pierce County – in addition to Boggan, after he was separated from friends while inner tubing on the Puyallup River earlier this month. He has not been recovered. In April, a 24-year-old man died after capsizing his canoe on Lake Steilacoom.
The Lake Tapps deaths have rallied the community together at Allan Yorke Park. The city plans to install a telephone call box in Allan Yorke Park that directly dials 9-11, new signs warning that there are no lifeguards on duty and removal of the floating dock.
“We’re looking at the park and how we can be more visual about safety,” said Bonney Lake Mayor Neil Johnson. “But a lot of it comes down to education – that’s the most critical part.”
Johnson said he’s drafting a plan to present to the Sumner and White River school districts that would implement a water-safety program next spring before school lets out to educate students about the dangers of Lake Tapps. He hopes to include East Pierce Fire and Rescue and the local police jurisdictions in the process.
“If we can get the school districts involved and get everyone on the same page, we can work together to educate kids on water safety at Lake Tapps,” said Johnson. “It might take some work and time, but the investment would be pennies compared to what could be lost.”
Last summer, Gig Harbor Patch editor Akiko Oda and I. We created this video a year ago, not knowing how powerful the messages relayed in it are today. Please watch this Patch-exclusive and learn more about the local water rescue team, how they operate on Lake Tapps and how, as a swimmer, you can enjoy the water safely.
One critical component to water safety that Lt. Matt Jewitt reiterated to us over and over again during the training was the importance of life jackets.
“Not once have we ever had to perform a rescue on a victim wearing a life jacket,” he said.
There are life jackets provided for swimmers to use at Allan Yorke Park.
TIPS FOR SAFE SWIMMING:
- Wear a life jacket.
- Know your limits. Stop before you get tired.
- Small inner tubes and plastic rafts aren’t intended to be used on rivers.
- Stay within designated swim areas, preferably where a lifeguard is present.
- Check the temperature and current of waterways where you plan to swim or boat. Western Washington waters can be cold enough to induce hypothermia, even during summer, and currents can be deceptively strong.
- Be cautious of sudden drop-offs in lakes and rivers. People who can't swim or aren't strong swimmers have slipped into deeper water and drowned.
- Don’t drink alcohol while swimming or boating. It slows reflexes and affects judgment.
- Supervise children carefully.
- Keep boats in good repair, and file a float plan with someone before leaving the dock.
Source: State Department of Health