Water Safety Urged In Wake Of Drowning At El Dorado Lake

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

As he searched the water, Tyler Brewer's heart sank.

"It's just a sinking feeling," Brewer said. "It's gut-wrenching."

The rescue mission at El Dorado Lake Friday had turned into a recovery mission. Not long later, Brewer, an expert diver and the Director of Public Safety for the city of Augusta, helped pull the body of Oscar Rodriguez-Vargas from the water.

Deputies say the man went in the water to retrieve a boat that had drifted from the shore. They say he was not wearing a life jacket.

"He's a good man. I think his intention was that it was his bosses boat, he was a guest, he wanted to help and do the right thing," Brewer said. "It turned into a tragedy."

The 29-year-old Wichita man became the fourth drowning victim Brewer has recovered in his career.

"I don't want to go on another call like this," Brewer said. "I don't want to have to do this ever again in my career."

Brewer spoke to KAKE News Saturday at his Amber Waves diving store in east Wichita. He has a safety message he says he wants everyone to hear.

"There's nothing wrong with wearing a floatation device," Brewer said. "And, if you want to learn to swim and you don't think you can afford it, just go to a YMCA and talk to somebody about it."

Brewer says not only is there nothing wrong with wearing a floatation device, but you shouldn't go near the water without one.

He likens it to the importance of wearing a seatbelt in the car.

"You don't wear one and you get complacent about it and it's that one time and it only takes one time," Brewer said.

In addition to a life jacket, there are other tools Brewer suggests you have with you when you go to the water.

Those tools include specially-designed safety products such as buoys and a "throw bag." The throw bag is full of 75 feet of rope. It's meant to be thrown to someone in trouble to give them a lifeline. The bag costs about $20.

But in an emergency, if you don't have these specialized products nearby, Brewer urges you to think of what else you have available. Items that most people take with them to the lake, like a cooler, can often double as floatation devices.

"It's a matter of consciousness of what can happen and what you can do to avert it," Brewer said.

Brewer says the YMCA is a great resource for people looking for water safety and swimming classes. He says for people worried about the cost of such programs, he says the YMCA is great about working with people to make sure they have access to the classes no matter their financial situation.

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