Group of Friends Volunteer to Prevent Drownings - WSET.com - ABC13

Group of Friends Volunteer to Prevent Drownings

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Smith Mountain Lake, VA - Rescuers on Smith Mountain Lake say six drownings in one year is unheard of.

The latest two happened this weekend when a man jumped into the water and began to panic.

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says Kelvin Staffon, 18, jumped into the water Saturday afternoon and began to struggle. When his grandmother's boyfriend tried saving him, both men got pulled under.

Drownings are happening more and more often on Smith Mountain Lake, but there's one group now banding together to keep the heartache from happening again.

Whoever says retirement is supposed to be easy has never met Allen Busch, George Tawes or Ray Talley. The three friends traded the easy life of palm trees and month long vacations for something else.

"We are like the only all marine volunteer fire department in the United States," said Busch.

It's called the Smith Mountain Lake Volunteer Fire Rescue group.

"That's the rule for every member. You get on the boat you have a jacket on," said Talley as he puts on his life jacket.

And there's no doubt, these three members are close. Allen has been volunteering for 15 years. George joined after retiring from the Los Angeles Police Department. And Ray? Ray's the quiet one.

But even with all their experience, all the rescues, they've never had a summer like this.

"We've had six drownings this year. It's unheard of," said Busch.

Unheard of that two of them were children, just six and 12 years old.

"Maybe if we feel like crying we can do that, put your hands on each other's shoulders and talk about it," said Tawes.

"The scream from that mother, you don't forget," said Busch.

This kind of retirement isn't easy, but for three friends, three grandfathers, it's work that has to be done.

"Pay attention and wear PFD's when you're around the water for children," said Tawes.

If you see someone drowning, officials say use the "throw don't go" policy. Throw a life jacket or rope into the water and only jump in yourself as an absolute last resort.

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