By LIBBY CLUETT
PALO PINTO COUNTY – The Brazos River Authority and area officials urge people to take caution while navigating the county’s water or terrain this summer. And their concerns are seemingly validated by several deaths, including some in the past two years, in which families lost loved ones who were participating in outdoors activities.
Palo Pinto County is approaching the second anniversary of the death of Bureau of Land Management Firefighter Caleb Hamm, who died July 7, 2011, of heat stroke while battling one of the county’s many wildfires. His family continues to try to raise awareness of the need for policy change to prevent similar deaths from heat stroke.
In one year’s time the county had four drowning deaths in its lakes, including one at Lake Palo Pinto and three at Possum Kingdom Lake, where lake levels are over 80-to-100 feet deep.
Over the past five years, there have been six drowning deaths at PK Lake, according to the BRA.
The BRA has several concerns for lake-users’ safety over the Fourth of July holiday, as well as for the hot, dry summer ahead.
“Safety is always our first concern,” said Public Information Officer Judi Pierce.
“With water levels lower, hazards exist that are not always apparent,” she added of lakes, like PK Lake, where the level is 9.7 feet below maximum capacity, and Lake Granbury, which is down by 7 feet and nearing its lowest level.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. Among the CDC statistics, nearly 80 percent of people who die from drowning are males and children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates.
Some factors that contribute to drowning are: lack of swimming ability, lack of supervision, failure to wear life jackets, alcohol use and seizure disorders.