by Adam Ghassemi
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Last Fourth of July was a complete wash out, but Friday's forecast shows this year will be gorgeous. That means more people will be out at area pools and lakes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to stop a deadly drowning trend up and down the Cumberland River.
When people head out on Percy Priest Lake this holiday weekend park rangers, like Amber Jones, will be watching.
"People have that mentality though it's not going to happen to them, that they're invincible,” Jones said.
The latest drowning happened Sunday when a 28-year-old man out boating with friends became the 11th person to die on a Corps lake this season. Police said he slipped and fell into the water, and wasn't wearing a life jacket. Rescuers recovered his body two hours later.
It's a scenario many agencies train for, but often can't reach a real victim in time.
Jones said stopping the trend means changing habits when it comes to life jackets.
"They now unconsciously put a seatbelt on, but they haven't developed that type of habit with life jackets,” she said.
There are life jackets for anyone to use at designated swimming areas around Percy Priest.
But life jackets are only half of the battle. The other part is getting kids who are scared, don't have access to or have never learned to learn how to swim.
"A lot of the population regardless of ethnicity is just under served. They simply do not have access to water,” said YMCA of Middle Tennessee Aquatics Director Erik Houston.
Houston runs a program called Learn To Swim that gives free lessons to 1st and 2nd graders from some of Nashville's poorest communities. Many are minorities who have to overcome a family fear of water.
"We want them to have a core set of skills that allow them to be safe and have the most fun in the water,” Houston said.
Legally, anyone 12 and under has to wear a life jacket while on a boat, but they strongly encourage anyone on a boat or swimming from shore to wear one.
Jones said, like always, they’ll also be out looking for boaters who drink and get behind the wheel.