Lake Lawtonka drowning victim has been identified

Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 6:18 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - Jarris Willingham, 21, was reportedly a passenger on a jet ski at Lake Lawtonka, when he fell into the water and drowned.

Lawton Police Department has confirmed that Willingham’s body was recovered by a dive team on Sunday around 11:30 a.m., and he was not wearing a life jacket.

It is required in Oklahoma for people on personal watercraft to wear a personal flotation device.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Ryan Griffith said he’s been in law enforcement for about 29 years and has witnessed firsthand how a life jacket can save a life.

“Of course, if they’re wearing a personal flotation device that’s required by law, then it probably wouldn’t have occurred at all.

In this situation, it very possibly could have prevented this accident from happening,” he said.

He encourages people to wear life jackets even if they feel confident in their swimming abilities.

“Very seldomly do we investigate a drowning or a boating accident where a fatality victim could not swim. Because people that can’t swim, typically are not in that situation or in that environment for something like that to happen. I can also tell that most people that are in that situation or a tragedy where a drowning can occur, can swim,” he said.

Trooper Griffith also said 80% of boat drownings happen in this area of the country, so it’s essential to wear a life jacket out on the water.

“It is very, very important that we utilize them like we do our seat belts. Seat belts only work in our vehicles if we wear them. Personal flotation devices only work when we wear them,” he said.

Willingham was also an active duty airman basic at Sheppard Air Force Base down in Wichita Falls.