Life jackets saved my family

  • Published
  • By Teresa Denney
  • 53rd Wing
My brother and his family visited us here in the beautiful Florida Panhandle last summer. I looked forward to showing them all the exciting things to see and do.

I was also eager to take them on a boat trip. I spoke extensively about the area wildlife and the beautiful waters. My niece was especially thrilled at the possibility of seeing dolphins. I rented a pontoon boat from outdoor recreation and waited impatiently for their arrival.

The time finally came, and we embarked on an awesome day on the water. As we got closer to our destination, a pod of dolphins came into view. My niece was mesmerized. They gave us a thrilling show to remember. I was so happy it was all going so well.

We spent a good four to five hours cruising around before deciding to go home. By then, it was hot, and the kids wanted to take off their life jackets because of the heat, but I told them Florida law required them to keep them on while in the boat. However, none of us adults were wearing them.

On the way home, the water became choppy. Out of nowhere, a rogue wave hit the bow, and the front of the boat was instantly submerged. My brother's wife and two kids were thrown overboard. The rest of us went flying down the length of the boat. It was total chaos.

The boat finally straightened out, and we were able to stand. My brother and husband jumped into the water and pulled the three back into the boat. They were scared, coughing up water and battered. The adults on the boat were pretty bruised up as well and bewildered at how something like this could happen so quickly.

I hate to imagine what would've happened if those kids hadn't been wearing life jackets. I know now that the adults should have also been wearing them too.

This is a lesson I'll never forget. No matter how confident you are in your environment, never let your guard down, and never think that you can do without a life saving device that is readily available to you.

I thank God we all came out of it safe, but I'm not sure my brother and his family will want to go out on a boat again anytime soon.