Parents talk about keeping kids safe on the river

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The death of a four-year-old Bay St. Louis child, Blake Richardson marks the second time in two years that a Jourdan River boating accident has claimed the life a child.

Hancock County Coroner Norma Stiglet said Blake Richardson died of injuries he received when the boat he was on collided with another boat.

Back in July 2009, ten-year-old Madison Karno of Waveland was killed in an accident where she was in an inner tube being pulled by a boat. Officials said she was ejected when it hit something in the water and died of head injuries.

This weekend, three generations of the Vedross family camped at McLeod State Park in Hancock County where a boat launch offers easy access to the Jourdan River.  In this family, an outing on the river means everyone, from Grandma to little baby Dawson Vedross, must wear a life jacket.

Amanda Vedross is Dawson's mother. She said safety is a concern especially when it comes to children. "Definitely a life jacket," Amanda Vedross said. "That's the first we do before we put them in the boat-is put a life jacket on them."

Boaters said while flash lights and flares are good to keep on hand, nothing is as valuable as only allowing an experienced driver to operate the boat. They said, unfortunately, there are some not-so-safe drivers on Jourdan River.

Charlene Landry of  Carriere said, "You have to really watch out for the other boaters especially on this river. It kind of twists and winds. A lot of people ride the jet skis and in certain areas they'll go kind of fast. You just have to watch out for them."

Some boaters said they've seen people steering on the wrong side of the river.

"You try to stay a good distance away from each other,"said Bridget Ladner. "It's almost like a car. Everybody stays on the right side and make sure you're taking your time around the curves when you're going."

The Vedross family said their advice is: to stay alert and hold young children close. They keep the kids on their laps while tightly holding a strap on the back of their life jackets.

"We don't let them run around the boat. We hold them were they're restrained so they don't fall over or jump out," said Amanda Vedross.

Her sister-in-law, Arianna Vedross, has two young daughters.

Arianna Vedross said, "Anything can happen. There's a lot of people that are riding out in the boats that are drinking. Of course, we make sure no one rides with us with alcohol when we have the kids with us. But there are people drink while their riding in the boats and there's a lot of curves and it can be dangerous. So if anything was to happen we want to make sure we have a tight grip on the children."

The Department of Marine Resources offers free boating safety classes to the public.

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