The Wild Side.August 19, 2012

I was planning to have some light-hearted fun this week, but another fishermen has died by drowning.

Thursday, officers from three agencies found and recovered the body of 27-year-old Brandon Jeane from Toledo Bend. The story is that he was fishing late Thursday with his uncle, fell overboard and never surfaced.

Jeane was not wearing a personal flotation device — PFD is the term used by safe-boating program directors, but we all know them as “life jackets.”

Through 2012’s first seven months, we’ve had 26 boating fatalities — it was from January through July last year — and at least 20 of the 26 this year were not wearing life jackets when their bodies were plucked from the water.

Jeane is the 27th this year, and came after six boating deaths in July. Five of those six were not wearing life jackets.

Is this message clear enough yet?

If not, then consider a couple-of-weeks-old story from two Bayou Lafourche brothers. They insisted they don’t want to be identified. Lots of down-the-bayou folks know them, but they want to be know as fishermen, not newsmakers.

Both were wearing life jackets on that Saturday morning and were trying to run from a building thunderstorm. They were in a freshwater bayou when lightning struck their boat. The bolt knocked one of the brothers from the boat and knocked out the other.

And it set the boat on fire.

“If it wasn’t for the life jacket, I don’t know that I could have made it back to the boat to get my brother out. I was stunned, but realized that my brother was still in the boat and didn’t see him moving, and the boat was burning. I’m glad we made it OK. We’re OK,” one brother said.

So, without taking time to put the jackets on, we might have been attending two more funerals and watching two more families go through the pain and asking the all-too-familiar “why” question.

PFD’s are a lot more comfortable to wear these days than the bulky models we wore 30 years ago. There are auto/manual inflatable vests that lay flat along the torso and a comfortable even when casting for and landing fish.

Yes, they’re more expensive (the least costly run $110), but the choice of wearing a PFD or not wearing one should come down to a very serviceable, practical and comfortable should not come down to expense, not when the he-man refusing to wear the jacket just spent $300 or more on a coveted rod and reel.

That’s why there will be no Christmas suggestions for your fisherman this year. Not from here anyway.

Make a note today that the best present you can give is a live-saving PFD, but only as long as it comes a promise that it will be worn. And why wait for Christmas. Give it now, then smile during the celebration of our late December holiday because your gift kept loved ones around the tree and didn’t become just another tragic statistic.