Oct. 4, 2008 turned from fun to tragic for 21-year-old Ryan Thomas at Saguaro Lake.
“He was out with his friends, they all had fun, but as they were pulling in, my nephew Ryan said he wanted to cool off one more time. He jumped in and never resurfaced," said Shannon Liebrock of the Ryan Thomas Foundation.
Ryan Thomas was an athlete, a college football player and a great swimmer.
“It doesn't matter who you are, it can happen to anybody. In Ryan's case, he swam 30 feet from the boat dock and didn't make it. You cramp up while swimming and that's it and the water is not clear, it's hard to find you," said Deputy John Ramsay of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Lake Patrol.
You’ll see a memorial for Ryan at Saguaro Lake, right next to a kiosk offering free life jackets.
“At the Ryan Thomas Foundation, our primary goal is to provide the Arizona Game & Fish Department with money to help build these kiosks and provide free life jackets," said Liebrock.
You’ll see the kiosks at eight different Arizona lakes.
“They are free. Come borrow one, take it out on the lake, utilize it and then bring it back when you are done," said Ramsay.
So far this year, we’ve had six drownings at Arizona lakes and rivers. In many cases, they could have been prevented.
“Because we hear about water safety so much in Arizona, it starts to fall on deaf ears. These are tragedies that can be prevented. Ryan's tragedy could have been prevented," Liebrock said. "If he had on a life jacket, he'd still be here today. I want to encourage people to use the life vests so their family doesn't have to go through a tragedy like ours has."
For more information, visit www.theryanthomasfoundation.com