West St. Louis County, Missouri (KMOV) — Since 2007, seven people have drowned in the Meramec River in Castlewood State Park, including two deaths this year.
Although there are already plenty of warnings in the park about the dangers of swimming in the river, people continue to swim in it, so a Ballwin family had an idea to heighten awareness.
Over the Labor Day weekend, Danni Eickenhorst and her two sons, Jackson and Cole, placed white crosses on the beach to represent all the victims of drowning in Castlewood State Park since they moved to Ballwin over a decade ago.
“Just to make it clear that this is something that happens frequently and the people who lost their lives are not just a statistic, they’re real people. They’re brothers, sisters and sons and daughters,” said Eickenhorst.
Eickenhorst said the idea to do this was from her youngest Cole.
“We were thinking we need something to alert the people, make them think twice before you just go in and start swimming,” said Cole.
The two boys, 14 and 10-years-old, said they watch emergency response rush past their house to the Meramec River to rescue someone drowning all too often.
“You see the emergency workers outside, you know I take a moment, I pray that everyone’s going to be okay, but really it worries me,” said Jackson.
Some of the things the state park has implemented is placing signs at the entrance to the beach telling people why rivers are so dangerous to swim in, mentioning the sudden drop off to deep water and the strong under currents.
Also new this summer, the Missouri Highway Patrol teamed up with the Missouri State Parks to offer life jacket lending program, providing life jackets of all sizes directly at the shore of the Meramec River.
Despite these warnings, many people still swim here.
“I see the sign that says no swimming, but it’s not going to stop us. Obviously where you see it going fast, don’t take your kids that way,” said Sarah Garriott, a visitor to the park.
The Eickenhorst family knows they cannot stop people from swimming in the Meramec River, but they hope their message makes people more overcautious and saves at least one life from drowning in the future.
“You’re not really invincible,” said Jackson.
They have started using #PeopleDrownHere on social media to spread awareness of the risks of swimming in rivers.
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