Life jackets locked up as boy nearly drowns

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by JIM FORMAN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Jimformanking5

KING5.com

Posted on August 8, 2012 at 9:05 AM

Updated Thursday, Aug 9 at 3:18 PM

MARTHA LAKE, Wash. -- Roughly 24 hours after a 12-year-old boy from Everett slipped under the water of Snohomish County’s Martha Lake, kids were once again splashing in the water. But something was different. The metal cabinet which houses life jackets for people to use for free is open. On Monday it was locked tight.

“The fact that they weren’t just talking about getting a life vest, the fact that they went over there and attempted to access the cabinet and they were locked,” said Trish Prem, who had brought the 12-year-old along with her own children for a late afternoon swim.

Prem says the boy went in the water without a life jacket.

The life jackets are part of a program to keep swimmers safe at six Snohomish County parks. The county explained that the cabinets are opened and closed by different people at each park. 

In some cases, there are park rangers, at others there are live-in caretakers. At Martha Lake Park, volunteers are used to maintain the cabinets. On Monday, there simply was no one available to open the cabinet.

“You can’t expect public officials to supply one for you,” said 14-year-old Moise Meyer. “If your kid has trouble swimming you need to either teach them how to swim, or provide something to keep them safe.”

Meyer echoes the private concerns of public safety agencies, that people have become used to being provided lifejackets and lifeguards. There are just too many budget restrictions to put a lifeguard at every swimming hole, and not enough life jackets to hand one out to everyone who needs them.

So then it becomes about smart choices as hinted in a statement from Tom Teigen, the Director of Snohomish County Parks.

“The Safe Kids loaner life jacket program is a complimentary program available at six Snohomish County parks. On the day of the incident, the life jacket locker at Martha Lake was unavailable. Signs are posted around the lake urging caution when swimming. We rely on family members, guardians and fellow swimmers to make wise choices, especially when we are unable to provide life jackets. Our hearts go out to the family of the boy and we are praying that he makes a swift recovery,” said Teigen.

As for the 12-year-old, little remains known about his condition, other than he was rushed to Seattle Childrens Hospital.

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