Maricopa County officials encourages water safety this Memorial Day weekend

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office says part of what makes Lake Pleasant one of the lakes with the most amount of drownings is its size and the amount of traffic.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 11:47 AM MST|Updated: May. 25, 2023 at 5:46 PM MST
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LAKE PLEASANT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Memorial Day weekend is almost here and if you’re going to Lake Pleasant — or anywhere with a body of water — officials want you to practice safety, especially after last year’s deaths.

“Last year, there were 11 deaths on these lakes, and I just think that was so unfortunate. Frankly, one is too many,” said Maricopa County Supervisor Thomas Galvin. “Most of them were absolutely preventable. Make sure if you’re in the water, wear a life vest; if you’re going to go on a hike, make sure you’re hydrated — you go with a buddy — you have someone with you to make sure you’re safe at all times.”

Over Memorial Day weekend last year, Galvin says there were two drownings on Lake Pleasant. Those deaths only made up a third of the total drownings by this time in May last year. We’re told there were six fatalities, and five were drownings. So far this year, there are three. “Things happen really fast out on the water,” said Detective Robert Marske with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

His office says part of what makes Lake Pleasant one of the lakes with the most amount of drownings year after year is its size and the amount of traffic it sees. “This we have a lot of shoreline to access. There is a lot of roads that go directly to the shoreline to recreate,” he said.

Officials say no one is "invincible" and to practice safety this Memorial Day weekend at Lake Pleasant.

Every year, officials stress the dangers of being hydrated, being responsible and wearing a life jacket. Yet there are always rescues. “There is a common denominator, people’s ability to swim is not as good as they think it is,” Marske said.

Chief Dave Latourneau said search and rescues are undoubtedly hard on the families impacted, but it can be physically difficult on the deputies and rescue teams. “It puts our guys in danger too, if we’re long lining individuals out from the trail heads, or unfortunately drownings, my guys suit up and scuba dive,” he said.

While many may think motorboats are far more dangerous, experts say lake goers enjoying paddle sports are at high risk. “What we have seen in the past year and even since the pandemic is a huge influx in paddle sport participants. What we’re not seeing is good compliance with wearing a life jacket,” Marske said.

The Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona has partnered with the Ryan Thomas Foundation and Arizona Game and Fish Department for a lifejacket loaner program. The program makes lifejackets available lakeside at 24 kiosks statewide, adding more kiosks and allowing boaters to use a life vest from the loaner station and return it at the end of the day.

MCSO says there are life jacket styles available for almost any boating activity.

For more information on water safety in general, visit the Maricopa County website here.