At your own risk

The SE Texas Record Nov. 3, 2007, 7:45am

Aimee Varner drowned while swimming at Smith Lake in Vidor last summer.

Varner, reportedly in her 30s, died after she rode a pulley ride into an 18-foot deep area of the lake. According to published reports, she had her breath knocked out of her and never emerged from the water.

It wasn't the first time Southeast Texas has seen such a tragedy, and it won't be the last.

That's because water, as we all learned as soon as we were old enough to splash, is fraught with risk.

Of course, on sweltering summer days around these parts, it can also be fraught with relief. And a whole lot of fun, especially when accentuated with slides and rides like those Ms. Varner was enjoying before her accidental death

"Accidental," to be clear, is our word.

According to Beaumont lawyer Trenton Bond, lifeguards were directly to blame for Varner's death. They should have saved her life, but they didn't. Now the folks who own Smith Lake, a local small business patronized by thousands of adults and children alike each summer, should pay.

Such are the details of a lawsuit filed by Bond last week in Orange County District Court on behalf of Ms. Varner's estate, which charges his client "was not properly supervised by Smith Lake employees."

Varner was "allowed to drown without any intervention.. from lifeguards," wrote Bond, incredibly charging that they willfully let her die when they could have saved her. Anything goes when it comes to conjuring up settlement leverage, we suppose.

Of course, the real problem with this kind of thinking lies with the impact it has on the rest of us. The concept of "proper" supervision of an adult at a swimming park dangerously suggests that the Smith Lakes of the world should make their customers a false promise: the presence of even the most skilled, attentive lifeguards might provide a guarantee against their drowning.

Here's a reality check: it won't. And perpetuating the myth that it can or should, as this lawsuit absolutely does, ironically serves to give local swimmers a false sense of security, making them less self-aware and, thus, less safe.

No matter who is watching or what the signs say, water still can kill you. Forget that fact, and posthumous lawsuit settlements notwithstanding, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

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