Free life jackets for river runners

Brian Cohee loads a box with free life jackets at the Blue Heron boat ramp on the Colorado River. He also is supplying life jackets at Corn Lake and putting an empty return box at the Loma boat launch for river rafters. “I can’t go and physically put them on people, but I want to make them available. I want everyone to just be safe on the river,” Cohee said.

Because it was a sunny morning, because it was a holiday, because it was a day off, about 12 boats launched at the same time into the Colorado River at Corn Lake on Monday morning.

Brian Cohee was among them, as were Ctormy Taylor, Taylor’s fiancee and another friend.

“I saw about a dozen people go into the water without life jackets, no oars, in single-chamber boats,” Cohee recalled. “I found out later on that night that there’d been an accident, a boat had popped and someone had drowned.”

Taylor’s fiancee and friend were able to swim to an island in the river, but Taylor was swept away in the swift, freezing water.

The tragedy inspired Cohee to fill two big cardboard boxes with every spare life vest he owned — many of them picked up at garage and yard sales — and place them at the Corn Lake and Blue Heron launches.

He’s calling it the Save a Life Jacket program and said he hopes others will contribute vests to be used and returned by rafters who approach the river without them.

“I realized, after hearing about what happened to Ctormy, that I can’t be reactive, I need to be more proactive,” Cohee explained. “So, I took a box full of life jackets down to Corn Lake and a sign saying, ‘Stop, do not go in the river without a life jacket, if you don’t have one use one of these.’ “

He painted the 18 jackets he’s put out so far with a big green circle, inside of which he wrote “Save a Life Jacket,” and said he’s counting on the honor system to keep the jackets in circulation and saving lives.

He left an empty return box at the Loma launch.

He said on Thursday that he went to Loma to collect the returned jackets and take them back to Corn Lake.

Now, he said, he’s building wood boxes to replace the cardboard ones, and said he hopes people will donate jackets to the Save a Life Jacket program.

“I’m just hoping people will put these on and use them,” Cohee said. “I can’t go and physically put them on people, but I want to make them available. I want everyone to just be safe on the river.”

For information or to contribute to Save a Life Jacket, call Co hee at 260-0638.


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