BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. - Army officials have a warning for anyone heading to Georgia's Lake Allatoona or Lake Lanier over the summer: wear your life jacket.
Officials say the Georgia lake has experienced a record number of fatal accidents and incidents on the water this year and are trying to prevent any more tragedies.
According to reports, the popular lake, which is part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District, has had its highest number of visitors since 2016 - averaging around 15% than the usual year.
As of July, 21 people have drowned in the waterways included in the district. That's eight more than the number in all of 2021.
"We’ve had 21 fatalities in the Mobile District this year," said Chris Purvis, lead ranger at Lake Allatoona. "That is 21 families that came to the lake to have a good time and left without a family member or friend."
Officials say the average age of the victims was 35 years old. Only one of the victims has been female. All of them were doing normal lake activities including fishing, swimming and boating.
One of the victims this year was 5-year-old Kaiden Franklin. In May, the young boy was playing on a float just before he went under. His body was found hours later using a sonar device.
Authorities say simple safety measures can greatly reduce the risk of dying in the lake.
"We want to make sure you and your family go home safe at the end of the day," said Chris Arthur, the recreation program manager at Lake Lanier. "Wear a life jacket, don’t dive into unknown waters, and if boating, be responsible."
If you see someone struggling in the water follow the guidelines Reach, Throw, Row but Don’t Go.
"It is heartbreaking that there are 21 people that will never again enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming, or anything else," said Tim Rainey, Lake Lanier project manager. "We’re doing our best to help; however, we need the public to understand that this is a serious community issue."
The Army Cops offers free life jackets for visitors to use while recreating at the lake, which you can get at the vistor's center or at life jacket loaner displays at swimming beaches.
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