Lake Murvaul officials look at ways to prevent future drownings, water safety class set

Lake Murvaul officials are taking action after the drowning death of a Garrison teenager, discussing potential safety additions to the swimming area and holding a water safety event this week.

CARTHAGE — Lake Murvaul officials are taking action after the drowning death of a Garrison teenager, discussing potential safety additions to the swimming area and holding a water safety event this week.

“We as a board want to provide a safe place for everybody to come swimming,” lake Board President Eric Pellham said.

Brandon Tenison, 18, drowned June 17, and officials expressed their condolences to his family at a meeting this past week of the Panola County Fresh Water Supply District No. 1.

The lake’s swimming area, near the marina, has no on-duty lifeguard; it is “swim at your own risk,” officials noted. But board members discussed two options that could provide a safer swimming experience: changing the shape of the swimming area so that it is shallower and longer along the shoreline or adding a system of floating ropes like some swimming pools have.

Pellham first proposed changing the swimming area’s dimensions “so that it’s not as deep and (we can) maybe look at maybe making it wider, because we don’t want to lose any of the surface area because it does get crowded during the summer time.” The swimming area goes down to 9 feet at its deepest, depending on lake levels.

“We want to make a safe environment, and I think it would benefit us if we move it in and look at making it wider,” he said.

Pct. 1 board member Mike Vanderslice recalled a ropes system he saw while taking a survival course, suggesting the district add ropes at a set interval either in an umbrella shape or fanned out parallel to the shoreline.

Board members voted to look at pricing for the rope system materials.

Lake officials also set up a free water safety class and life jacket program through the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. The class on water safety, for children and adults, is set at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Lake Operations Manager Kayla Gray said the class would cover things such as teaching children what to do if they are in distress and teaching adults what the signs of drowning look like — something she noted was widely confused because actual drowning situations are quiet.

“They might not even realize the child is in distress,” she said.

A life jacket program also is being set up, with free jackets being made available for swimmers while they’re at the lake. A temporary stand will be set up before lake officials build a permanent one.