Over the past seven days, Southern Oklahoma has been blindsided by a pair of tragic drownings.
There’s not much any park, lake or pool can do to make swimming and enjoying the outdoors 100 percent safe, but Lake Murray State Park has been on a hot streak in terms of swimmer safety this summer.
And with the summer season well underway, as tourists and locals fill up the sand and shores of Lake Murray, Assistant Park Manager Richard Keithley is cautious but hopes to avoid any accidents to keep their streak alive.
“[A drowning] is every lake’s worst nightmare,” Keithley said. “We’ve been extremely busy, but we’ve been extremely fortunate.”
The summer is the busy season, and with more people, there are more opportunities for accidents, Keithley said.
But he has some tips that he said would go a long way to help ensure people’s safety as they enjoy the beauty of Southern Oklahoma’s array of lakes this summer.
“The best thing swimming wise is to make sure you have somebody that knows where you’re at,” Keithley said. “Keep an eye on each other. Whether it be swimming or hiking, make sure somebody knows where you’re at. It goes a long way to have people watching out for you.”

Additionally, Keithley said the rules are there for a reason. And at the end of the day, despite the efforts of the Lake Patrol and park rangers and managers, it’s up to people to take personal responsibility to ensure they’re safe.

That includes following rules, like swimming in designated areas within 50 feet of the shore. Another important factor Keithley said, is that swimmers know their limits and respect them.

“A lot of drownings are because people spend too much time in water that’s deeper than they’re used to,” he said. “The other thing people seem to forget is that even though you’re in the water, you can still be dehydrated. Alcohol dehydrates you. The sun dehydrates you. So drink plenty of water.”

One way to ensure safety in the water is wearing a life jacket. Children under the age of 12 are required by law to wear the flotation devices.

And thanks to the efforts and generosity of the Lake Murray Yacht Club, that’s become a whole lot easier.

At every public beach at Lake Murray, there are life jackets on poles that are free for public use, thanks to donations from the Lake Murray Yacht Club.

“It’s so important that every kid has a life jacket, when they go down it’s not like you can find them like when they’re swimming in a pool,” Diane Baldwin of the Lake Murray Yacht Club said.

Baldwin said the organization has donated over 800 life vests in the past five years and plans to donate more this week.

“Since we’ve been donating the life jackets, there’s been no children drownings at the public beaches at Lake Murray,” Baldwin said. “It’s heartwarming to go by the beaches and all of the orange life jackets are off the poles and in the water.”

Sometimes the life jackets disappear, and while it’s not ideal, Baldwin is heartened to know that a child is using the necessary safety devices in other swimming areas.

“It helps us know we’re doing our part to keep kids safe,” she said. “We’re just really glad we’ve started the program and hopefully the safety of these kids will continue on forever.”