Local News

Sundown Patrols Fly Above Lakes To Help Keep Swimmers Safe

Posted July 7, 2003

— A number of recent drownings at Jordan Lake have park officials concerned about water safety.

Now, a group of volunteers are taking to the air in an effort to keep swimmers safe on the ground.

The Sundown Patrol gives air crews a bird's eye view over area lakes. The low-altitude flights take off just before sunset on the weekends and holidays. Their mission is to spot boaters and swimmers in danger.

When the sun goes down, the watchful eyes over Raleigh's area lakes open up.

Flying is an inherently risky business. But for the pilots of the Sundown Patrol, flying also can save lives.

There are weekly safety flights over Jordan, Shearon Harris, Wheeler and Falls lakes. The planes look for boats or swimmers that may be in distress just before sundown.

The patrols were to begin on Memorial Day. But heavy rains grounded the first flight on the same day someone drowned at Jordan Lake.

Another person drowned at the same lake last month.

With the amount of rain dumped on the Triangle recently, the streams are swelling, overflowing into the lakes, creating all kinds of currents, which create total and constant danger.

That's why the Sundown Patrol -- along with members of the Coast Guard -- decided to join forces to prevent future deaths.

When pilots spot someone who needs help, they will contact the Civil Air Patrol ground station, which will immediately dispatch emergency crews.

Volunteer pilots are offering the service at their own expense for the eighth year in a row.

After takeoff, the operation usually lasts for 90 minute.

Sundown patrols will continue until after Labor Day.

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