Families of drowning victims gather to celebrate passage of bill requiring water safety equipment at Indiana beaches

BEVERLY SHORES, Ind. — Families of drowning victims gathered in Indiana on Memorial Day to honor their loved ones and celebrate the passage of a bill requiring new water safety equipment at beaches.

Evelyn Hernandez has been a water safety advocate ever since she became a drowning survivor.

“I was here at this very beach June 12, 2012, on a 90-degree day at noon with my boyfriend, 32-year-old Leonel Dominguez, who passed away by 2 p.m. that very day,” Hernandez said.

Since then Hernandez has fought for more precautions, particularly around Lake Michigan.

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“Leo jumped out of the raft to swim us to shore, however, the wind was too strong, the water was too cold, and the raft flipped away with the wind,” Hernandez said.

On Monday in Beverly Shores, Hernandez was joined by 12 other families who all know all know the pain of losing a loved one to drowning.

“66% of drowning victims are strong swimmers, we were both strong swimmers, this can happen to anyone, today I am a drowning survivor,” Hernandez said.

They gathered to celebrate the passage of the “Lake Michigan Rescue Equipment Act” in Indiana.

The bill will require 911 call boxes, new beach hazard signs, and life rings to be added along the lakeshore.

“So flotation is the key to life, the difference between surviving a drowning incident or not,” Dave Benjamin, from the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, said.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project has worked to raise awareness about the dangers of water and demonstrated how life rings can save lives.

“You’ll want to reach back behind you, throwing sidearm, and when you’re releasing you’re pointing at your target,” Benjamin said.

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Indiana joins Illinois in requiring water safety equipment at beaches. The goal is to eventually get all Great Lake states on board.

“You’ve advocated for change that will prevent other families from feeling the grief you have gone through. We are here today to celebrate your advocacy and remember those we have lost,” Indiana State Senator Rodney Pol said.

Ilinois passed the law requiring life rings at all piers and access points along Lake Michigan two years ago.

The Rescue Equipment Act will go into effect in Indiana in June.

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