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Texas Lakes Are Fun On A Holiday Weekend. They Can Also Be Deadly.

A Texas lake, with a piece of a rocky shore in the foreground and a sailboat in the distance. It's a sunny day.
Bret Jaspers
Grapevine Lake.

Bottom line: Wear a life jacket.

The Fourth of July holiday weekend means people will be visiting Texas lakes to swim, boat or fish.

But ahead of all this recreation, officials are urging people to remember the Number One rule when boating: Wear a life jacket.

“If the circumstances are right, you could lose your life,” said Phil Ledbetter with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Something could happen on a boat, you could have a medical episode. Just please always wear your life jacket in and around the water.”

Ledbetter works at Grapevine Lake, near DFW Airport in North Texas.

At least two people died last weekend in North Texas lakes. One person jumped into the water from a boat on Grapevine Lake to rescue another person. Ledbetter said the rescuer wasn’t wearing a lifejacket, and that he drowned after saving the other person.

Ledbetter called jumping in after someone a “cardinal sin” for the Corps, which manages the lake.

“You’ve always got equipment on your boat … either a throw ring, an oar, rope, something to throw at them," he advised. "Drive the boat towards them.”

At Joe Pool Lake southwest of Dallas, a man drowned after removing his life jacket while swimming off a boat, according to NBCDFW.

So far this year, there have been 32 open water drownings in Texas, according to the state Parks and Wildlife Department. There were 110 in all of 2020 and 91 in 2019.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.