JACKSONVILLE, TX (KLTV) - A program was designed in East Texas to help prevent tragedies like the Shreveport drownings from happening here. It is called Kids Don't Float and offers free life jackets for the public to borrow and return.
But, just a month after the program was created on Lake Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Fire Department says the jackets are missing.
A lone life jacket hangs on the rack, where just a few weeks ago, it was surrounded by 17 more. The Kids Don't Float campaign was created by the City of Jacksonville and ETMC to emphasize the importance of life jackets and floats.
"More young kids drown in lakes than in swimming pools," said Jacksonville Fire Chief Paul White.
At Lake Jacksonville, officials say at least one person drowns every year. That is why they started the Kids Don't Float program, hoping swimmers would come and use the life jackets they provide and then return them when they're done swimming. But, that has not happened.
"Sometimes they just leave them laying around," said White. "They just don't return them. But we've stenciled them pretty well so I think people that are taking them are just taking them."
"I think it is a very good program," said Carol Lee, a mom. "In reality, you know that's a risk when you put things out like that."
Lee's 7-year-old son splashed in the water, his life jacket fastened. She says it is crucial for parents to know the limits of their children.
"My older two sons, they learned how to swim when they were four years old," said Lee. "But Brett, he hasn't learned how to. We just think for our peace of mind, if we look away like I am right now, then we know he is ok in the shallow water."
Authorities say it only takes 20 to 30 seconds for a child to drown
"Adults tell us that we're out there and this little kid, more than once, they had to pull them up because they got in water deeper than they could stand and their parents didn't notice," said White.
So keep a watchful eye, know the limits, and, if you use a jacket, return it.
The Jacksonville Fire Department says it is the only Kids Don't Float program in Texas. They are asking for life jacket donations so they can continue to lend them out for free. You can drop them off at the Jacksonville Fire Department.