U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger Gary Bruce was ready and recently took quick action that made a difference in several people's lives.
In one incident, Dale and Kate Driskall, Park Attendants at Floating Mill Campground on Center Hill Lake, called the Resource Manager's Office and advised that a boater reported almost hitting a swimmer in the lake. The boater indicated that the swimmer was struggling and didn't seem like he could go any further. It's unknown why the boater didn't assist the swimmer.
After receiving the call, Ranger Bruce immediately drove to Hurricane Marina, boarded the Corps patrol boat and went to the scene, a short 5-minute boat ride away.
Ranger Bruce located the swimmer about 200 yards from shore. The 21-year-old man, who did not speak English, appeared to be totally exhausted, needing help from Bruce to get into the boat and put on a life jacket. Ranger Bruce then took the man safely to shore, where four friends awaited. One friend explained that the man swam to the island, about ½ mile away, and was swimming back. The man recovered and did not want medical assistance. Without Ranger Bruce's quick action, it is quite possible that this young man would not have survived this incident.
Ranger Bruce is one of those rangers that seems to be there and ready when people need him. Just a few weeks later, Rangers Gary Bruce and Spencer Taylor were the first on the scene where a woman was injured after jumping off a bluff near Sligo Bridge. The injured woman was on a float in the water surrounded by her fiancé and friends when the rangers arrived.
Ranger Bruce contacted DeKalb Central Dispatch and was directed to transport the injured woman by boat to Sligo Marina where EMS would be standing by. She was carefully placed in the boat and immediately transported to the awaiting ambulance at Sligo Marina. She was diagnosed by paramedics as having a severe fracture to her right femur, was transported to Cookeville Regional Medical Center via EMS and later airlifted to Erlanger Hospital.
Although these two incidents clearly show the positive impacts the efforts of Park Rangers at Corps lakes have on individual lives, it is very difficult to determine just how many lives have been impacted and maybe even saved by the great work the Rangers have performed in communicating the importance of water safety to the public.
"The entire Ranger staff at Center Hill Lake has made it a priority this year to promote water safety awareness," said Tim Dunn, Resource Manager at Center Hill Lake. According to Dunn, "Rangers have been able to spread the word about water safety not only at schools, county fairs, campgrounds, and other public events, but also through increased boat patrols. Through these efforts, we have been able to share information about water safety and the importance of wearing your life jacket to more than 25,000 people this year alone. The individuals that Ranger Bruce assisted were very fortunate that they did not lose their lives or have more serious injuries from not knowing the dangers that water presents. We hope that our efforts to encourage water and boating safety will continue to make a lasting impact on visitors to Center Hill Lake."
According to Ranger Bruce, "Some ways that you can practice water safety and ensure that you and your family return home safely after a fun day at the lake are to:
· Learn to swim well and swim with a buddy.
· Know your swimming limits and ability: the distance across the lake or to islands is further than it seems.
· Avoid jumping off of cliffs or bridges.
· Choose a designated boat operator that doesn't drink.
· Take a safe boating course.
· Wear your life jacket."