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CPW loans out life jackets at Miramonte Reservoir in memory of man who drowned

NORWOOD, Colo. — Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is now loaning out life jackets at Miramonte Reservoir in memory of a 21-year-old man who drowned there, the agency announced Thursday.

Tanner Chesnut wasn’t wearing a life jacket when he was kayaking at the reservoir in May of 2018, capsized and drowned. His body was not found until more than a week later, according to CPW.

“We threw a lot of resources at it, a lot of counties assisted, and we were unsuccessful,” CPW Boating Safety Program Manager Grant Brown said in the agency’s news release. “We spent hours looking at sonar here for weeks. Every time, we saw the family standing right here on the boat ramp, and each time you just wanted to bring them some closure.”

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Adults are not required to wear a life jacket. They only have to have a life jacket on board the boat or paddle board with them.

“Cold water is the biggest thing that ends up killing or seriously injuring our boaters and paddlers,” Brown said. “The air temperature may be very warm, but the water is cold. You cramp, you can’t breathe, you panic, you go into cold-water shock, there are all kinds of factors. It’s not about your swim ability at that point.”

Pamela Barrett, Chesnut’s mom, worked with Brown to put together two life jacket loaner stations at Miramonte Reservoir. Anyone who does not have a life jacket will now be able to borrow one for the day. Each station has eight vests in it — four for adults and four for children.

“I come out here and see people on paddleboards and what not, from young kids to older people, and it makes me cringe now seeing someone out there without a life jacket,” Barrett said. “I guess I never thought about it before Tanner’s accident. When you experience something like that, I feel like I’m the boat safety police now or something.”

This marks the first life jacket loaner stations at a CPW Wildlife Area. CPW does have 30 life jacket loaner stations at state parks and other properties across the state.

“If this station saves even one life, that’s worth it,” Brown said.” This year, we’ve already had 18 water-related deaths in Colorado.”

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There were 32 water-related deaths in Colorado in 2023 and a state record 42 in 2022, according to CPW.

For more information on the state’s boating regulations and legal statutes, click here.

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