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Drownings at Lorain beach prompt additional safety measures

Posted at 5:46 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 19:00:46-04

LORAIN, Ohio — A tragedy is inspiring change at Lorain County Metro Parks. A month after two young men drowned at Lakeview Beach, the park system is adding tools one victim’s mother hopes will save other lives.

Thursday, park manager Jadelynn Showalter demonstrated how to use new rescue rings installed throughout Lakeview and Century Beaches.

“You hold onto the throw bag and you toss the life ring out to the person in distress,” she said.

The 24-inch orange lifesaver rings are attached to four posts approximately 200 feet apart at Lakeview Beach. One is positioned at the smaller Century Beach in Lorain. Each includes a throw bag containing 90 feet of rope.

“We’re taking every measure we can to prevent people from drowning,” said Lorain County Metro Parks Director Jim Ziemnik.

He explained the addition of rescue rings was inspired by drowning deaths at Lakeview Beach nearly a month earlier.

“It was one of those moments to say, ‘Hey, we came up short,’” he said.

On May 31, investigators said 14-year-old Isaiah Barnes waded into Lake Erie at Lakeview Beach in Lorain. He made it beyond a break wall, where water and terrain are unpredictable, and went underwater.

When he didn’t resurface, 20-year-old Jesus Del Valle Rodriguez jumped in and attempted to save the teen. He also went under and did not resurface.

Read More: Families, strangers unite after drownings at Lorain beach

“The past few weeks have been kind of hard, but it’s also been kind of good because me and Jesus’ family - we talk every day,” said Isaiah’s mother Nikishia Barnes. “I lost my mother, so I feel that he’s with her and my aunt.”

Barnes told News 5 Thursday it’s too painful to return to the lake and the beach where her son lost his life. She was also unaware of the new rescue rings but thinks it’s a positive effort.

“I hope it does prevent any other tragedies, especially with our young kids,” she said. “I wish they had lifeguards on duty where the kids could go down there and swim and be safe.”

Metro Parks staff explained they’re experiencing a lifeguard shortage, like many Northeast Ohio communities. The lack of lifeguards means swimming is officially off-limits, but the director acknowledged staff cannot effectively enforce the rule.

“We are saying no swimming. That’s for their own health, safety and welfare. Obviously, people are choosing to do what they want to do,” Ziemnik said. “We have no law on the books to go and arrest them or cite them or pull them out. We don’t want any confrontation. We want to be respectful if people want to enjoy the beach.”

The lifeguard shortage was another factor in adding publicly accessible rescue rings.

“Not having any lifeguards here, we kind of have a need to really have these out here all the time,” Showalter said.

She explained the parks used money from their safety budget, which would normally pay lifeguard wages, to purchase the rings. She estimated the rings, throw bags and backup sets all together cost less than $1,000.

Lorain County Metro Parks hopes the rescue rings will be an investment in safety. Barnes hopes it will help prevent other families from experiencing loss.

“I’m glad they’re doing it,” said Barnes. “Hopefully it will stop more drownings. We’ll just have to sit back and wait and see.”

Additionally, Metro Parks eventually plans to add life jackets, available for families to check out, at its Little Free Library facility at Lakeview Beach.

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