FWC News Release
Contact: Brian Rehwinkel, 850-488-5600
Throughout the year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigates boating accidents that result in drowning deaths. Many deaths could have been prevented had the victim been wearing a life jacket. Because life jackets can make such a difference, the FWC recommends the gift of a life jacket this holiday season.
Joining the FWC in suggesting life jackets as a gift is Gay Kite, a mother who has seen first-hand how important a life jacket can be to boaters. Gay Kite’s son, John, lost his life in a boating accident during the holiday season three years ago. He and a friend, Allan Morone, died on Dec. 19, 2004 on Half Moon Lake near Ocala. Neither of the men wore a life jacket.
“Neither I, nor anyone else, would have expected John or Allan to drown,” Kite said. “They were in their early twenties, healthy and good swimmers. I can’t help but believe they would both be with us if they had been wearing life jackets.”
To reduce the number of drowning deaths, the FWC has aggressively campaigned to get boaters to wear life jackets all the time while on the water. Improved life jacket technology has helped with this effort with the introduction of new inflatable life jackets. These new life jackets offer a more comfortable alternative to the traditional jackets. One compact style straps around the waist like a belt pack. Another style fits like suspenders over the shoulders. Some of these life jackets inflate automatically when a person falls into the water. Prices of the new, comfortable, inflatable life jackets start at around $60.
“Unfortunately, John’s and Allan’s deaths are indicative of many boating-related drowning deaths,” said Capt. Richard Moore, FWC’s boating law administrator. “People don’t expect to have their boat sink or to fall overboard and drown – but this happens all too often. No matter how good a swimmer you are, if you fall overboard, and you’re wearing a life jacket, your chances of survival are greatly enhanced.”
Three years after her son’s death, Kite educates others on the importance of wearing life jackets all the time while out on the water. She doesn’t want others to experience what she has been through.
“Believe me, this is not something you ever get over,” Kite said. “I don’t want any other mother or anyone else to experience the loss of a child or loved one due to drowning.”
Moore agrees. “The best present anyone can receive is to have the people they care about with them during the holidays,” Moore said. “Giving a life-saving present helps ensure that.”
So far this year, over 70 deaths have been attributed to boating accidents statewide.