Why We Wear Life Jackets

Last April I wrote a Safety Source piece entitled Your Second Most Important Safety Item. I included U.S. Coast Guard and Oregon State Marine Board statistics that clearly show wearing a life jacket, or PFD, save lives. I also included a personal note on how the drowning of a dear friend, Dr. Hobart Landreth, and his young son, Patrick, still affects me over 30 years later.

This past week I got an email from Hobie Landreth. He’d “Googled” his father’s name and found the article. Hobie and his brother Phil were quite young when Hobart and Patrick died and I’d lost track of the family since I moved west from Oklahoma. It was good to reconnect and learn a bit about where their lives have gone in the intervening years. It also brought up some of the same feelings and emotions I’d felt when I first wrote the article. There was lingering sadness that I never got the chance to share whitewater boating with Doc; I discovered it after I moved to Idaho. He had a strong connection to Northeast Oregon, having done part of his graduate work in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. I’m sure he would have come West to visit and share some on-the-water adventures. I know my loss is small compared to that of Hobie and Phil, but it’s very real in me.

Coincidentally, I got another email about the article a couple of days after I heard from Hobie. Greg Loftus wrote:

“I would like to thank you for the great article on PFDs. I always wear mine and no one paddles with me that doesn't. I live beside Great Slave Lake and every year she gets someone; spring and fall are very dangerous with bad ice conditions. I work a SAR team and I wear one even in winter on the ice, as you can never tell. Each year I read about someone that drowns here and it is always the same - no PFD. Wake up folks, your life depends upon it! Thanks, perhaps they will listen to you.”

Greg says it well, “Your life depends upon it!” PFDs save lives. Folks, there’s just no excuse for not wearing one. Today’s manufacturers make them in all manner of models, sizes and styles, for any size and type of boater. There’s a good PFD out there for each and every one of you, a model you can comfortably wear all the time you’re on the water.

It’s the cheapest form of life insurance you can buy. Get a good, comfortable PFD and wear it. As I said in the original article, “Please wear your life jacket. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for those you’d leave behind.”

e-News Editor