SD GF&P: No Excuses, Life Jackets Provided

Three people died on South Dakota lakes over the holiday weekend and at least two of them were not wearing life jackets. But the state game, fish and parks department says there’s no reason not to wear one. They even have a special program to make sure everyone that needs a life jacket has one.

Authorities say on Sunday a man dove off a boat into Lake Madison to cool off. While it happened in just six feet of water, the 22-year-old never came up.

“It doesn’t matter the depth, you can drown any depth of water,” said South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks District Supervisor Jason Baumann.

The next night, a man overturned in his kayak on Lake Pactola. The 38-year-old was pulled to shore, but later died at the hospital. While the circumstances were different, they had one thing in common.

“It is tragic because they can be prevented by wearing life jackets,” said Baumann. “You never know when you’re going to be knocked accidentally into the water and you may think you know how to swim, you may know how to swim but in some cases that doesn’t allow you to do that if you’re knocked unconscious.”

Whether you’re on a jet ski, boat or swimming in shallow water, Baumann says everyone should wear one.

“They don’t want to wear them because they’re hot, they’re swimming, obviously, if you want to dive underwater, it can make it difficult but or they’re uncomfortable, people have a lot of excuses not to wear them,” Baumann said.

GF&P says cost is no longer one either. At more than a dozen parks and lakes in South Dakota, they’re loaning out life jackets to visitors.     

“We have life jackets that are available for people to come and borrow and they use them up to two weeks at a time,” said Baumann.

Infant to adult, no matter the size, they have one available for almost everyone.    

Baumann said, “It’s important that you have a life jacket on because you can’t predict what’s going to happen.”

South Dakota law requires that everyone on a boat have a life jacket and anyone under the age of seven must wear one while on the water.

Here’s a list of South Dakota parks that participate in the Life Jacket Loan Program:

• Aberdeen: 605-626-2391, 5850 E. Highway 12
• Chamberlain: 605-734-4530, 1550 E King Ave.
• Ft. Pierre: 605-223-7700, 20641 SD Hwy 1806
• Huron: 650-353-7145, 895 3rd Street SW
• Mobridge: 605-845-7814, 909 Lake Front Drive
• Rapid City (Outdoor Campus West), 4130 Adventure Trail
• Sioux Falls: (Outdoor Campus East), 4500 Oxbow Ave.
• Watertown: 605-882-5200, 400 West Kemp
• Webster: 605-345-3381, 603 E. 8th Ave.
• Adams Homestead: 605-232-0873, 272 Westshore Dr., McCook Lake
• Lake Vermillion: 605-296-3643, 26140 451st Ave, Canistota
• Lewis and Clark: 605-688-2985, 43349 SD Hwy 52, Yankton
• North Point: 605-487-7016, 38180 297th, Lake Andes
• Snake Creek: 605-337-2587, 35316 SD Hwy 44, Platte
• Newton Hills: 605-987-2263, 28767 482nd Ave, Canton