Local Man Dies on Canoe Trip with Son

     Thankfully this isn’t the headline of our local paper but it is a headline nonetheless. 

MARION COUNTY, FL — A young man was unable to save his father after their canoe tipped over Saturday.

Middleburg resident Billy Earl Griffin, 44, and his 19-year-old son had gone out for an Independence Day adventure on Lake Catherine in the Ocala National Forest in a 12-foot canoe.
They lost their balance and the canoe tipped over. Neither man was wearing a life jacket.
The elder Griffin tried to go back to the canoe to get the paddle, and called for his son’s help.
He was unable to swim, and his son was unable to keep him above water.
Officials recovered Griffin’s body early Sunday morning.

     It seems so unfair to have such a preventable tragedy occur especially on Independence Day.  I don’t know why it makes a difference what day it was except for now every 4th of July for the rest of Billy Earl’s son’s life he won’t feel much like celebrating.  It will probably be quite some time before he celebrates anything since he’ll no doubt feel tremendous guilt and responsibility for his dad’s death. 

     We live near the water and stress the importance of wearing a life jacket to our guests and children.  I wanted to hear what Josh, my 8 year old son, would think about the drowning incident so I asked him about it.  He said if he was the son who couldn’t rescue his dad then he would feel bad and sad.  I then asked him whose fault would it be and he first replied that it would be his fault, but after a few seconds he said, "Dad’s fault?" 

     Is a parent’s responsibility to protect their child ever over? I know it wasn’t Billy Earl’s intention to go out and drown on the 4th of July and destroy his son in the process, but that’s what happened.  There are some things we can control in life and both Billy Earl and his son could have prevented this senseless accident.

     I am blaming the victim.  I know I am not suppose to do that but I am.  It just bothers me so much to think about the sadness and loss that could have been avoided had they both just put their life jackets on. 

     I hear all sorts of excuses as to why folks don’t want to wear their life jacket.  Either it’s too hot, too big, too small, or plain uncomfortable.  When I hear the uncomfortable excuse I love to say, "Coffin’s don’t look very comfortable either." 

     There are many different designs of life vests and pfd’s out there and you can find one that works for you.  Maybe you rationalize not having one because they are too expensive.  They are much cheaper than a funeral and you can’t put a price tag on life. 

     I urge you to wear a life jacket every time you go out on the water.  If you don’t want to do it for yourself then please at least do it for those around you so they don’t have to go through the misery of waiting for a scuba team to pull your corpse up  from the bottom of the lake before they  bury you for good.

My sympathy goes out to those who have lost loved ones, drowning victims and all.