BONNERDALE, Ark. (KTHV) - An Arkansas family is sending a warning to boaters this evening after an accident on the lake left an 11-year-old boy without one of his fingers.
“We were going to have a picnic and have a nice day at the lake,” said Tamara Gilliland.
Gilliland’s grandchildren were visiting her in Point Cedar, Arkansas, when members of their extended family went out for a day on DeGray Lake.
Her grandson, 11-year-old Brayden Anderson, was among several children who went tubing behind a pontoon boat and then wanted to go swimming.
Bobby King, Brayden’s great uncle, owns the boat -– a 2001 Bernnington he purchased "used" several years ago.
“We took all the safety precautions with the life jackets and really was watching them,” King said.
Several of the children jumped off the side of the boat, and then came Brayden’s turn.
According to King, Brayden’s left pinky became stuck in the gate hinge as he leaped from the vessel – ripping the finger off.
Family members acted quickly, King said. They rushed Brayden back to shore and then to the ER at Arkansas Children's Hospital, where doctors amputated the finger.
“It's just a safety concern,” Gilliland said. “We just don't want any other family to have to go through what we have gone through.”
King said he knows many people with similar barges.
“They’re probably like us, completely blind of it,” he said.
Following the accident, King installed plastic hinge guards on all of his boat’s gates. He hopes others who own older model pontoon boats will do the same if their boat is not already equipped with them.
“There’s a lot of ‘em out here – different models and makes with this style of handrail,” King said.
Brayden is back home in Tennessee recovering from the accident. His mom said he is scheduled to see a specialist in the coming days.