Grant will help as officials focus on Memorial Day weekend water safety

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 25, 2012

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY— For many, Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer fun in the sun.
But it could also be dangerous for those planning to play on the water.
Alcoa Power Generating Inc. launched its annual water safety campaign Thursday morning at High Rock Lake. Along with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and local law enforcement agencies, the company promotes life jacket use, safe boating education and other water safety measures.
This year, it also announced a $25,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation that will support “learn to swim” programs provided by the Stanly County YMCA. The agency gives swimming classes to second-graders at nine schools.
Albemarle father Lee Snuggs told the gathered crowd about the tragedy behind his support of those programs.
In 2002, Snuggs’ 2-year-old son, Smith, fell into a relative’s pool and drowned.
“You think you’ve got it all covered,” he said. “It shouldn’t have happened. That’s one of the things about drowning — it’s so preventable.”
In memory of their youngest son, Snuggs and his wife started the Smith William Snuggs Endowment, which has raised $50,000 to help fund the YMCA’s children’s swimming initiatives.
As in past years, Alcoa is giving hundreds of free life jackets to children and supporting local sheriff departments for increased patrols of the lakes.
Drowning is the No. 1 cause of accidental deaths in toddlers ages 1 to 4, according to a report released earlier this month by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nationally, the number of boating accidents and fatalities has been dropping. But in North Carolina, both numbers grew last year.
According to Brad Simpson with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, 70 percent of all fatal boating accidents were from drowning, and 84 percent of those individuals were not wearing a life vest.
Davidson County Sheriff David Grice stressed the importance of using a personal flotation device.
“In my 41 years in law enforcement … I never saw a drowned person wearing one of these,” Grice said, holding up a bright orange life vest.
Sgt. Anthony Sharum with the Wildlife Commission reminded boat owners and operators to check their equipment before coming to the lake.
“Also, if you’re going to come to the lake and enjoy alcohol, have a designated driver,” Sharum said.
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Hot, humid weather could create even more safety issues this Memorial Day weekend.
According to AccuWeather, a several-day stretch of 90-degree temperatures and high humidity is expected to arrive just in time for the holiday.
The heat may be welcomed by summer revelers, but people exposed to it are advised to drink plenty of fluids, avoid strenuous activity and take breaks from the sun. Highway travelers are reminded to make sure their vehicle is ready to handle hot weather conditions.
On Thursday, several boaters and fishermen got their recreation in early before the weekend.
Some said they just want to avoid the holiday rush and crowds. Others, like Salisbury police officer Brian Kimball, will be working instead of playing this weekend.
Kimball, a Kannapolis resident, went fishing on the lake Thursday with his five-year-old stepdaughter Sierra. She wore a life jacket with a princess theme, but Kimball said he usually doesn’t wear one.
“I just never have,” he said. “But I’m fixing to buy a pair of those suspenders. You pull a cord and they inflate… or they inflate automatically when you’re in the water.”
Rowan County resident Dana Snider refueled his boat at Tamarac Marina after spending the morning on the lake.
“I’m retired, and I try to get down here before it gets too crowded,” Snider said.
He said he wears his own life vest when he’s going any significant distance on the water, and he only takes it off when the boat is idling.
Snider has been boating since the 1960s, he said, and he’s spotted many unsafe situations on the water.
“Sometimes I’ll see a pontoon boat with 25 people on it and wonder if everybody’s got a life jacket,” Snider said. “Some of these kids have got high-powered boats, and they look like they never drove them before.”
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission holds several free boating safety courses in the area. Sessions will be held in Salisbury on June 2, July 14, August 12 and October 14.
Lexington courses will be offered on June 9 and July 28. Visit to register.