Kayaker's death puts emphasis on water safety

Kayaker's death puts emphasis on water safety

The tragic death of a kayaker in Long Beach is a sobering reminder about the importance of wearing life jackets.

Wilberto Mendoza was found dead near the Jim Simpson Pier on Friday.

A witness at Long Beach Harbor says he saw Mendoza on a kayak Friday afternoon with his feet up, appearing to be relaxing.

The coroner says Mendoza, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, was not wearing a life jacket; which may have been a factor in his tragic death. It's not known exactly how Mendoza wound up in the water.

"When you're in a kayak, the feeling is 'I'm on a float. I'm on a kayak that probably won't sink. If I fall overboard, it's right there, I can grab it,'" said Biloxi boater, Kevin McLuen.

McLuen enjoys being on the water in his sailboat, or in a kayak, and has made a habit of wearing life jackets.

"On a motorboat or a sailboat, I think it's wise to always keep a life jacket on. But on a kayak also."

WLOX News Now reporter Steve Phillips spotted two kayakers just east of the harbor who didn't appear to be wearing a life jackets. Boaters may have them on board, but not always wear them on the water.

At the Long Beach Harbor, there's no reason to go boating or kayaking without a life jacket. Even if you don't have one, the harbor master's office has several donated life jackets that you can borrow at no cost.

"It's also just good common sense, if you're on the water, to wear a life jacket," said McLuen.

Mississippi law requires boaters to have life jackets or personal flotation devices on board. However, the law only requires that children wear them on the water.

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