GRAPEVINE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Over the weekend one man drowned and another man nearly drowned at Lake Grapevine

Grapevine firefighters said neither of them were wearing life jackets. 

Grapevine Assistant Fire Chief John Sherwood said he has never pulled a drowning victim out of the water wearing a life jacket, which is why his department is trying to get more of them in the hands of those coming to the lake through their Loan a Life Jacket program. 

It was created after the fire department lost one of their own. 

Firefighter James McKenzie was an experienced swimmer and even part of the dive team. He drowned two years ago at Lake Grapevine while off duty. He was trying to swim to his family on the shore. 

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James McKenzie (Grapevine Fire Department)

“We had to make the recovery ourselves on him,” Assistant Chief Sherwood said. “Makes it very personal. Very difficult day for the Grapevine Fire Department.”

Since “Loan a Life Jacket” was implemented last year, the Grapevine Fire Department reports they’ve seen a 50 percent reduction in drownings. 

“Prior to implementing the program we were averaging about four drownings per year  and after we implemented the program last year we only had two drownings,” Assistant Chief Sherwood said. “It’s been very successful.”

“Loan a Life Jacket” officially starts next week and will last through the summer season. About 150 life jackets in various sizes will be stationed at five different areas around the lake. 

Firefighters are raising money to buy more jackets.

They will be holding three fundraisers at California Pizza Kitchen’s Grapevine location May 22, 29 and June 5. The fundraisers will run all day and 20 percent of all sales will go towards purchasing life jackets. Each jacket costs about $14. 

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