U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concerned with rise in deaths at Corps parks

Published July 19, 2011

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (July 19, 2011) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Jacksonville District is continuing to concentrate on water safety outreach at lake/river projects after a deadly start to the recreation season at Corps-managed parks nationwide.


As of May 31, 57 people have died on Corps-owned property this year, compared to 39 at this time last year – a more than 32 percent increase. Most of these fatalities were from drowning. Corps officials report that more than 90 percent of drowning victims at Corps parks were not wearing a life jacket. There has been one drowning in the Okeechobee Waterway this year, a 36 year old man swimming outside of the designated swim area on the St. Lucie Canal.


“Public safety is our number one priority,” said Maj. Gen. Merdith W.B. Temple, acting commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “The increase in deaths at USACE parks this year is of great concern to us. We want to do everything we can to make people aware of potential risks when they visit one of our recreation areas, and how to make good decisions that will improve safety for themselves, families and friends.”


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works with Safekids, American Red Cross, Lee County, and the Palm Beach County Drowning Prevention Coalition to provide water safety information to the public through outreach events and through school and summer camp programs. Through these avenues, the Corps reaches more than 60,000 Floridians with water safety messages.


"It is unfortunate to see time and time again the same scenario play out - a male between the ages of 18 and 48, swam outside a designated area with no lifejacket and drowned -" said Adam Tarplee, natural resources program manager. 


Corps officials encourage visitors to check local water and weather conditions and pay attention to recreation warnings, such as river closures from local emergency services offices prior to entering the water. Officials stress the single most important item a person can do on the water to reduce risk is to wear a life jacket. The Corps continues to promote boating and water.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the nation’s largest federal provider of outdoor recreation, hosting more than 370 million visits per year at 422 recreation parks in 43 states. Jacksonville District has three campgrounds, five boat ramps and three visitor centers at Lake Okeechobee.

Release no. 11-42