Life jackets important as accidents on the water can happen in an instant

WINSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Sunday’s tragic accident at Smith Lake is a sad reminder to families on the water that accidents can happen in an instant. A 7-year-old boy from Arley spending the holiday weekend with family and friends drowned Sunday. Winston County Sheriff Rick Harris tells WIAT 42 News that Joseph Alexander was wading in shallow water with his 5-year-old brother in an area of the lake called the Cable Crossing when he stepped off a hidden bluff and went under.

When it comes to Smith Lake, some visitors may not be aware of some of the dangers. The banks are very steep, and visitors to the lake can be in water that’s 50 or 60 feet deep very quickly.

For Tasha Grace and her family, cruising on Smith Lake is a Memorial Day tradition — one that involves life vests.

“If you fall off the boat and you don’t have a life jacket on, you might drown,” said 7-year-old Kaylie Carter.

“I grew up on the lake, and my Paw Paw’s rule was always, if you’re down on the dock, you have on a life jacket or a ski belt or something,” Grace added.

Alabama law requires all children under eight to wear a life jacket if they’re on a boat. Harris is adamant about people, especially children, wearing life vests at all time.

The area where Sunday’s accident happened is shallow close to the shore, but it drops off into deeper water. The little boy took one step too far and was over the edge. Harris says there are very few areas of the lake that are shallow at all, and the parts that are shallow don’t last long.

“We have a lake that’s different. We have lots of visitors here, and they don’t realize that this is not the beach,” Harris said. “There are a lot of factors that will affect their lives that they’re not used to.”

Harris says water temperature is another factor. The surface temperature is fairly warm, but below that, it’s still very cold. He says the cold water can be a shock to your system, causing you to gasp for air. Children could panic in that situation, Harris says.

Parents are advised to put life jackets on their children before they even walk out on the dock, because it only takes one second for them to fall off.

Copyright 2014 WIAT 42 News

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