Safe on the Lake

“Swim at Your Own Risk.”

A small sign is tacked high on a pole at the public swim areas on Lake Jacksonville, not too far from where 32-year-old Edward Grimes of Rusk drowned Sunday afternoon while spending a day at the lake with his family.

“This is not something that happens all the time, but if it happens once, it’s happened too much,” said Fire Marshall Brent Smith. “Lake safety is something that all of us tend to take for granted from time to time.”

No one is sure exactly what happened to Grimes, who called out in distress, but could not be reached before he went below water. Smith warns even the most experienced swimmers can encounter trouble on the water if they aren’t careful.

“First and foremost, you need to know your surroundings, know the area you are swimming in and what’s below the surface,” Smith said. “Consider using a personal floatation device. If you’re in a boat, it’s the law that you have one. If you find yourself tangled in anything — be it trout lines or hydrilla — the first thing is not to panic. You don’t want to kick with any wide motions, because that can have a tendency to wrap you tighter. Kick in shorter strokes and try to get of the water. If you can get to the surface, get on your back and get out of the area.”

Smith added that there was nothing to substantiate claims that Grimes had drowned when he became entangled in hydrilla.

“At this point, we really don’t know (what happened,)” Smith said. “It’s unfortunate, and we may never know.”

A memorial fund for Buel Edward “Eddie” Grimes has been set up at Capital One Bank in Jacksonville. The family had no life or burial insurance.

The city of Jacksonville has never had lifeguards for the public swimming area, said City Manager Mo Raissi.

“We can’t use the lifeguards at the (Buckner Park) swimming pool,” Raissi said, because lakeside lifeguards would require an open water certification. “You can’t have just one (lifeguard.) You have to give them a break every 20 minutes, so we’re talking about lots of lifeguards. Even state parks, they don’t have lifeguards. It’s a big expense.”