Mother starts life jacket station campaign after drowning of one-year-old daughter

Posted at 2:22 PM, Apr 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-06 18:27:19-04

After the tragic drowning of one-year-old Cayla Barnes, her mother is making it her mission to help others stay safe near open water by putting life jacket station in public swimming areas of Citrus County. 

"They’re being used. They’re all dirty," said Jessica Barnes with a smile on her face while looking at life jackets.

She recently helped install a life jacket station at Ft. Island Gulf Beach in Citrus County full of 20 life jackets of all sizes for anyone to borrow. 

Barnes uses her foundation "Cayla's Coats" to educate people about water safety after the tragic drowning of her 20-month-old daughter Cayla in 2010. 

"We were getting ready to go on the boat and with all the commotion we thought that someone else had her and she ended up falling in the river," said Barnes.

Cayla drowned that day. Barnes says had she known that drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in kids under the age of five, maybe things would’ve been different. 

"Our goal is to have a life jacket loaner stations in every public swimming area," said Barnes.

Just like the one installed in February at Ft. Island Gulf Beach in Citrus county. 

"I think it’ll get people to use them more especially if they can just borrow them," said Monique Delgado who is visiting from Kentucky. Her children used the life jackets while swimming at the beach.

"He's usually afraid of the water but I put the life jacket on him and off he went," said Delgado.

As for those concerned about people stealing the life jackets, Barnes says she'd be more worried if they weren't being used. 

"We have some that are missing but that just means that somebody needed one," said Barnes.