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In wake of recent drownings, officials urge use of life jackets

GULL LAKE, MI (WTVB) - The boating season on the many lakes in the Branch County area still has a couple of months to go with plenty of opportunities for lots of fun but also don’t forget safety first. The death of a man from Kent County in Gull Lake this past weekend hammers home the importance of not just taking a life jacket with you when you go boating, but wearing it while you are out on the water. He may have had one in the boat, but when it lurched and he was thrown into the water, it would not have done him any good.

Rachael Johnson with the National Safe Boating Council says thousands of drowning deaths every year could be avoided if people just slipped on those life preservers. 85% of drowning victims in 2012 were not wearing a life jacket. She says they have come up with all kinds of life preservers that are less bulky, light weight and more stylish. And there are inflatable life jackets that are approved for people 8-to-16 years of age and older. 

The 34-year old Wyoming man who drowned was driving the boat while his passenger also wasn’t wearing a flotation device. She was rescued by a nearby fisherman and a lifeguard from the Gull Lake Yacht Club. An autopsy is planned on the drowning victim as the investigation continues