Water safety and stressed life jackets at Utah Lake | News, Sports, Jobs

Ashtyn Asay, Daily Herald

Utah Lake is photographed from Utah Lake State Park on Monday, April 25, 2022.

This is the time of year when more and more people start having fun on Utah Lake. This month, the Utah Lake Commission is hosting a Water Safety Awareness Campaign to ensure that anyone considering getting in the water knows how to stay safe and has the tools to do so.

“Every life lost impacts a family,” reads a blog post from the Utah Lake Commission. “In May 2020, Priscilla Bienkowski and Sophia Hernandez, two teenage friends from Saratoga Springs, were reported missing after swimming near the Knolls area on the west side of Utah Lake. Eight days later, their bodies were found miles from where they entered the lake.

After this tragedy, family members and friends of the two girls contacted the Utah County Commission in July 2020. They suggested that a free life jacket loan station be available near the entrance. of The Knolls so people can borrow life jackets. The Utah Lake Commission has since partnered with both families to develop their idea; making it a lake-wide lifejacket lending program with six initial stations at public access points around the lake with more to come.

The Utah Lake Life Jacket Loaner Program provides the public with free use of life jackets on a first-come, first-served basis. According to the commission’s website, research shows that most drownings could have been prevented if a life jacket had been worn by the victim. “The objectives of this program are to increase the wearing of lifejackets during aquatic activities as well as to educate the visiting public on the importance of proper lifejacket use and fit and safety aquatic,” reads the site.

According to Sam Braegger, Awareness Coordinator, several fundraising and information efforts continue throughout May, National Water Safety Awareness Month, to help with the lifejacket loaner program and to other security efforts.

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo

An official aboard a Utah State Parks boat searches for two missing teenagers near the Knolls camping area along the western shore of Utah Lake near State Route 68 on Thursday May 07, 2020. The two teenagers, Priscilla Bienkowski, 18, and Sophia Hernandez, 17, were reported missing after swimming in Utah Lake, and search and rescue teams from the Utah County Sheriff’s Office searched for teenagers.

Braegger said there are currently five lifejacket loaner stations nearing completion with more to be added in the coming years. “Nationally, 80% of people who drown in boating accidents would have survived if they had been wearing a life jacket,” he said. “We want to make life jackets available to help people stay safe while on the lake.”

On May 7, the Paddle with Care Memorial Fundraiser was held where participants paddled from Vineyard Beach to American Fork Marina. There were educational booths about water safety and Utah Lake, as well as food and activities.

For more information about Utah Lake’s lifejacket loaner program and how monetary and lifejacket donations can be made, people can visit http://utahlake.org.

Members of the Utah Lake Photography Club submitted photos of the lake and its surroundings for a fundraising exhibit. The exhibition will run until May 31. The Photography Club is partnered with the Utah Lake Commission, Allen’s Camera, and SCERA Center for the Arts as an in-person and online photo gallery that anyone can purchase. Fifty percent of the proceeds go to the operation of the Utah Lake lifejacket loaner program.

Jason Robison’s “Shattered by Sunset” is one of the photos on display during May as part of the fundraiser for the Utah Lake Photo Exhibit, held at the SCERA Center for the Arts, Gallery 101.


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