Governor Patrick signs law to ensure life jackets are available at camps, rec programs

Governor Patrick signed the bill today as Frechette family members, advocates, and lawmakers looked on.
Governor Patrick signed the bill today as Frechette family members, advocates, and lawmakers looked on.Eric Haynes/Governor’s Office

A new law intended to ensure that life jackets are available at children’s camps and recreation programs has been signed into law by the governor, after a campaign by a grieving family determined to prevent a repeat of their tragedy.

“Christian’s Bill” is named after 4-year-old Christian Frechette, who died in 2007. Governor Deval Patrick signed it into law Tuesday, the governor’s office said in a statement.

The boy’s father, Derek Frechette, told the Globe in November that when he dropped his two sons off at a town recreation program, he left them each with a life jacket. Frechette said a staff member told him as he left that children were not allowed to swim with life jackets at the lake.

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Later that day, Christian Frechette entered the lake without a life jacket and drowned in just three feet of water, the Globe reported.

Since then, the Frechette family has pushed for an improvement in camp water safety in memory of their son.

The legislation states that camps and recreational programs must have one Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device “for each minor who will be present in a swimming or diving area,” except for swimming pools. Camp officials cannot prohibit parents and guardians from providing personal flotation devices for their children.

Program staff must also determine each child’s swimming ability during the first swimming session and confine children to swimming areas within the limits of their skills.

The bill also requires that all amphibious landing vehicles, including Boston’s duck tour boats, have a personal flotation device for every child passenger under the age of 10.

Senator Stephen M. Brewer, a Barre Democrat, and Representative Denise Andrews, an Orange Democrat, sponsored Christian’s Bill, and Representative Todd Smola, a Palmer Republican, and Representative Anne M. Gobi, a Spencer Democrat, advocated for the legislation, said governor’s spokeswoman Chelsie Ouellette.

She said the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is responsible for the implementation of the new regulations.

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