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Game wardens: keep an eye on kids near water, wear life jackets on boats

Game wardens: keep an eye on kids near water, wear life jackets on boats
Game wardens: keep an eye on kids near water, wear life jackets on boats 01:56

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Thousands of North Texas families spent the Fourth of July out on the water to celebrate the holiday.

Texas game wardens were out as well, patrolling the lakes for potential safety violations. Their top concerns are boat accidents and drownings.

Game wardens say it's especially critical to keep a close watch on your kids when you're near the water. It only takes a few minutes for a child to drown, and it often happens silently.

Children under the age of 13 are required by law to wear a life jacket at all times while riding on a boat. They aren't required to if they're just swimming off the shore, but game wardens recommend it anyway.

"They've had a lot of drownings and I just don't want to take the chance," said Angela Smeheh, who made sure all her kids and grandkids were wearing life jackets when they went swimming at Grapevine Lake on Monday. "Even if they're up this close [to the shore], anything can happen. I even make my oldest kids wear life jackets, even though they think they don't have to."

Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of five.

Even if your child or teen is a strong swimmer, a lake has a completely different dynamic than a pool.

"You can't see how the incline decreases or increases," said Texas Game Warden Angeline Miller. "You don't know if there's a giant hole there. So unfortunately, when your kid starts to go out in the water, are they going to stay in 4 feet of water? I'm not sure. It may drop off and suddenly be 9 feet of water. In a lake, it's just so hard to tell."

Game wardens also respond to drownings involving teenagers and adults too. Sometimes people will jump off boats without a floatation device, or it slips off while they're swimming.

Boating accidents, often caused by intoxicated drivers, can injure people on the water as well.

"So we try to make sure that the drivers are sober, they're not intoxicated, because obviously that's going to affect their reaction time and judgement," Miller said. "So we look for that whenever we check water safety."

By law, every single person on a boat must have a life jacket that fits.

Since the water is a lot more crowded on a holiday like the Fourth of July, safety is top of mind for families out enjoying Grapevine Lake.

"Lifejackets," said Justin Manis, who was out with his fiancé, son, and friends. "Swimming close to shore. Anything that will keep us safe. Not doing anything dumb like speeding on the jet skis or swimming too far out from shore. Just trying to stay away from all the crazies."

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