INDEPENDENCE -- Life jackets made available for public use in memory of two local brothers who drowned at Riverview Park in 2008 are gone -- at least until the weather improves.
Mary Troub, mother of the late Alvin Troub and Michael Runyon, however, said the jackets should be returned as a precaution against more accidents, even if the park isn't being heavily used during the winter.
The "life jacket loaner station" was donated to the city by Safe Kids Willamette Valley and Salem Hospital last August. The devices can be checked out and returned by swimmers and boaters on the honor system.
Polk County Fire District No. 1, the local partner of Safe Kids, put the eight life jackets in storage in November to protect them from deteriorating in the elements, said Fire Marshal Jeff Donahue.
Troub said she understands the reasoning, but stressed that her children perished that month more than a year ago while simply fishing near the shore.
"You don't have to be boating or swimming," Troub said. "Somebody could be walking along the dock and just trip and fall in.
"That's probably what happened with Mikey," Troub said, adding that she and her family were even considering placing their own life jackets at the site. "If it saves a life, it's worth it."
Donahue said he didn't speak with Troub when he removed the jackets, and intended to wait until spring to return them.
But "If we get some dry days here, we might put them back up sooner," he said.
Safe Kids has life jacket stations at Detroit Lake and Wallace Marine Park in Salem, where equipment comes up missing. Donahue said he knows the jackets at Riverview have been used and were always returned.
"To be honest, my family has been really watching to make sure they're still there," Troub added. "We've gone down there many times just to check."
Donahue said the need for the life jackets at the park is significant. Since Runyon and Troub's deaths, firefighters have performed a boat rescue there, and had to save the lives of an intoxicated man and woman who jumped off the dock into the swift moving current last spring.