May 2007

Wearing A Jacket Isn’t Enough — It Has To Fit Too!

From Janette Jones

Simply wearing a life jacket isn’t enough — anyone putting on a jacket should make sure that it fits properly, and the straps are done up too! Janette Jones, a Bullhead City, Ariz., resident tells her story of what happens when you wear an ill-fitting life jacket!

“When I was about 12 years old (I am now 40), I experienced a scary situation,” wrote Janette Jones. “I was water-skiing and felt myself losing my balance. I threw my arms up and let go of the tow rope. “

The young skier expected that she would simply lose speed and end up floating in the water, but that is not what happened. “When I did this (throwing up my arms) it caused me to slide across the top of the water,” she continued.

“This also caused my life jacket to move upwards on my body. The strap that was originally around my waist was now under my breast and the strap that should have been on my chest was over my head.”

This shifting of the jacket put her in a dangerous position. The jacket ended up around her face; her hands were pinned over her head and she didn’t have enough leverage to push the jacket back down or conversely, to remove it.

“I had a small opening vertically that I could see out of,” she remembers. “Most importantly, the water level was above my mouth and below my nose. The only thing I could do was tread water. I was depending on my legs to keep me above the water level.”

Her tow boat didn’t immediately stop when she let go of the rope. She watched in panic as it kept on going. However, in a very short order, the boat turned around and came back towards the trapped skier.

When it got close, the spotter on the boat screamed out, “She’s drowning!”

Ms. Jones recalled, “The boat captain panicked and jumped into the lake without his jacket. It didn’t take long before the boat drifted away from both us. He hollered to throw a life jacket, which the spotter did; however, it didn’t land near us.”

The girl was finally rescued when the boat was brought right beside her. The captain was able to push her against the side of the boat, and with the help of the spotter, undid the strap that was pinning her arms in an upward position.

“Just because I didn’t have my life jacket on properly, I put both my life and that of an innocent person in danger,” recalls Janette Jones. “I now own a boat and have children. I also have had arguments with my kids about snugging up the straps on their life jackets.

“I still ski, but I can guarantee you that when I start to fall, both my arms automatically come to my side, even though my jacket is tight!”