Angel Rings are for saving lives — not toys
"Angel Rings" or flotation devices strategically placed around the territory's most frequented beach areas have been known to save lives but there is still the problem of people removing the rings, playing around with them, and taking them home.
The Angel Ring program is spearheaded by the Rotary Club of Pago Pago who began installing the Angel Rings five years ago. This is according to Rotary Club President Dennis Wellborn who, over a telephone interview with Samoa News yesterday afternoon, urged the public to refrain from removing the flotation devices "because they are there to save lives."
Wellborn said that last month, the Angel Ring set up at Utulei Beach - which is frequented by local residents as well as tourists - went missing once again. Last year, former Rotary Club President Bill Maxey reported that Angel Rings placed at Utulei Beach were replaced four times since they were installed there.
"Utulei Beach is very difficult to monitor because so many people go there to swim," Wellborn said, adding that people think it's a toy so they play around with it and think nothing more of it.
A complete Angel Ring unit comes with a price tag of $1,800 and Wellborn said the project was made possible through monies collected from Rotary Club fundraisers.
The flotation devices are obtained from the United States Coast Guard, which is always represented in the Rotary Club membership.
"The USCG always has somebody from their office involved with Rotary," Wellborn said. He explained their USCG member helps them keep everything supplied as far as Angel Rings are concerned. He added that three Angel Rings are currently being tagged with the Rotary Club logo and once completed, they will be placed where needed.
Wellborn's plea to the public and Rotary Club members: "If you're driving by or walking around and you see anyone playing around with the Angel Rings, walk up to them and tell them to knock it off. We want to make people aware of the purpose of having these flotation devices around and want them to know how important these things are."
Wellborn said the missing Angel Ring from Utulei Beach will be replaced sometime next week.
He reported that recently, Angel Rings were credited with saving the lives of two youngsters who were swimming at the Sliding Rock (Le'ala) area. "We don't know the total number of all the people whose lives have been saved by the Angel Rings but it's always good to have the Angel Rings around."
The Rotary Club president said in Vaitogi alone, four lives were saved by Angel Rings in the five years since the program started. Wellborn also pointed out that in Faganeanea, a fishing boat got stuck on the reef and the Angel Ring there was used to get people to and from the boat.
Currently, Angel Rings can be found in the villages of Utulei, Vailoatai, Matu'u, and Faganeanea, with two rings in Vaitogi.
Wellborn said the rings are scattered in different locations across the island but "it is not as concentrated as we would like it to be." He said they are looking at installing several more Angel Rings but they need feedback from the public on which locations the rings would best be used and needed.
"Our goal right now is just to keep the rings that are already up, in place," Wellborn said. He applauded the efforts of Vaitogi village in keeping the Angel Rings in place. "The village council members and high chiefs of Vaitogi understand how important the Angel Rings are and they have issued a moratorium that prohibits anyone from touching or removing the Angel Rings."
"It's not that easy to put a stop like that in an area like Utulei Beach which is in the middle of the population base," Wellborn said.
The Angel Ring program was initiated after several drowning incidents in the territory. It was originally started in Australia by an Australian Rotary Club that wanted to offer someone in distress in the water a chance to hold on until help arrived.
Angel Rings have long ropes attached to them. When the ring is tossed out into the water, the person needing help can grab on to the ring and hold on to it until they can be rescued.
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