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Life vest station installed at Clarks Bridge Park beach
Hall County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Robinson with the marine patrol and daughter Rebecca, 16, help children locate a proper-fitting life vest just minutes after the new stand was put into place Wednesday at Clarks Bridge Park in Gainesville. Rebecca, a student at Chestatee High School, worked with Safe Kids Gainesville-Hall County and the sheriff’s office to get the stand up as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Two weekends ago Tosha Lowman nearly witnessed a tragedy on the banks of the Clarks Bridge Park beach at Lake Lanier.

As toddlers splashed in the designated swimming area, Lowman saw that the 3-year-old son of her friend had gone under.

By the time she reached the boy, his lips were blue and fear was in his eyes, but he was breathing, she said.

“It shows you just how quick that can happen,” Lowman said.

On Wednesday, Lowman was at the beach again when volunteers from the Girl Scouts, SAFE Kids of Gainesville-Hall County and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office erected a life vest loan station along the shoreline.

The station, where eight life jackets available for loan hang on hooks, was built by 16-year-old Rebecca Robinson, a Girl Scout whose father, Deputy Chris Robinson, patrols the lake for the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

“My dad kept coming home and telling me people were drowning, and I wanted to do something about it,” said Robinson, who is working toward her Girl Scout Gold Award.

Three people have drowned in Lake Lanier so far this year.

This past Saturday, “there were 150 people swimming at this beach,” the deputy said.

The vest station, which allows people to borrow child-size life vests for their children on an honor system, “should get parents’ attention,” he said.

“They’ll realize, maybe I need to take more time and observe my child in the water, and if my kids can’t swim, borrow a life jacket.”

A vest loan station was previously installed at River Forks Park, and is “very well-used,” said SAFE Kids of Gainesville-Hall County Director Kim Martin.

“If the kids are out, they’re being used,” Martin said.

Lowman said she went out and bought life jackets for her own children after the near-drowning.

“There’s still a lot of kids who don’t have them,” she said. “This should make a big difference.”