COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Many in the community are confused this week after the life jackets donated in honor of six-year-old drowning victim Jeremiah Henderson were taken down.
Mayor Skip Henderson explains that having the life jacket stand in the area created a public safety issue after many people assumed that by simply throwing on a life jacket they were able to swim in the dangerous river.
He says Uptown Incorporated and Fire/EMS started getting too many calls about the number of people putting them on and jumping in the river to swim.
He says those vests are not designed for swimming in the swift waters of the Chattahoochee.
“When a number of people stared going to that particular spot, they saw them there and took them as an invitation to put them on and go swimming. The danger level went up significantly. Our fire department was getting one call a day and in the past they get maybe one in every two to three a week of people in the water that they were concerned about that were a little close to the rapids,” says Mayor Skip Henderson.
The group who initially put up the jackets say they are frustrated with the city’s decision.
Kit Brown along with Tina Peavey are two of many people in the community whose hearts were touched by little Jeremiah’s drowning in the Chattahoochee River.
“We needed something here as a preventive, Something that somebody could put on really quickly be able to go out on the rocks," says Tina Peavey.
They say they didn’t put out the life jackets for swimming but to make sure that incidents like Jeremiah’s could be prevented.
“The purpose of the life jackets that we all donated were for personnel that came out here, kids that came out here, that wanted to be on the rocks and they accidentally fell in. That would hopefully save their life or until someone can get to them and help them," explains Kit Brown.
Mayor Henderson says that he hopes by removing the vests from the area the number of people in swimming in the river will go down. He also say he completely understands where this groups’ hearts were when they started the initiative.
“I think what happened though is there were some unintended consequence they didn’t anticipate and we didn’t anticipate so the correct action I think was to remove them from that particular part of the river, re deploy them somewhere else where the water is calmer, and continue to look for ways to encourage people to be safe on the river,” said Henderson.