Mountain Island Lake Marine Commission Begins Loaner Life Jacket Program

Date: May 15, 2013

Local partnership helps keep kids afloat, may save lives

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On March 27, 2010, Craig Keese lost his son and grandson in a drowning accident during a storm on Stockton Lake in Missouri. Neither was wearing a life jacket. Determined to prevent other families from experiencing such a tragedy, the Keese family started a foundation to provide free use of life jackets right where they’re needed: at lake access areas.

They began a life jacket loaner program which provides life jackets at kiosks on an honor system basis at several Missouri Lakes. When they relocated to South Carolina, they initiated the program there as well. In conjunction with Duke Energy, with sponsorship by the Mountain Island Lake Marine Commission, the program has spread northward, and two new kiosks are now available at Mountain Island Lake.

“A primary mission of the Marine Commission is to promote safety on Mountain Island Lake,” said commission chairman Kari Lanning, who lost her own husband and brother-in-law in a tragic boating accident in 2005. “Boating Safety Week is important for drawing attention to the importance of wearing life jackets, which would have saved my husband and his brother, and to learning and following other safe boating practices.” We hope this life jacket loaner program will help keep others safe.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children ages one to four, and three children die every day in the U.S. as a result of drowning. A limited number of life jackets in a variety of sizes are now available for temporary use at the Riverbend and Neck Road boating access areas on Mountain Island Lake.

Visitors at the two lake access areas can check out a life jacket to use on the lake at no charge. Boaters are asked to return the jackets to the kiosk for others to use. “We’re working based on the honor system, and expect people to return jackets the same day so that they’re available all season,” said Lanning. “These jackets may save a life.”

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Keese family since the first kiosk was installed,” said Scott Jolley, Public Safety Recreation and Design Project Manager for Duke Energy. “I have witnessed the loaner jackets being picked up, used and returned. It’s satisfying to know that we’re helping spread the message about safe boating, especially for young children.”

For more information on National Boating Safety Week, visit

The Mountain Island Lake Marine Commission is paying for the kiosk and life jackets, and Duke Energy paid for and oversaw installation.