CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — If you plan on going to the beach in the next few weeks, you may notice big TxDOT signs like the ones you see on along the highway or near construction sites, except these will say things such as "check beach flags.”
Earlier today, a news conference was held to announce those changes, and others, meant to keep beachgoers safe while in the water.
The new signs reminding beach goers not to swim near the pier or jetties were pioneered by Kiwana Denson, whose son, King High School student Je'Sani Smith, drowned last year after getting caught in strong rip currents.
Denson stood on the same beach where her son's body was found almost a year ago, on Friday morning.
“Our son tragically passed by rip current almost one year ago, so we've been on this journey to make sure we keep all our beach goers safe,” Denson said.
She has made it her goal this past year -- working alongside the city, county and state -- to ensure beachgoers are safe by suggesting changes like the reverse alert system, which provides rip-current alerts.
“And it wouldn't have been effective without her and her family,” Nueces County Precinct 4 Commissioner Brent Chesney said. “(I’m) very sorry for her loss, but tragedy sometimes spurs great things and that loss of life will definitely be honored for many, many years to come."
More changes are coming. The TxDOT signs will be placed in designated locations starting next week, just in time for Spring Break.
“These are historic times," Chesney said. "I mean, we're making changes on a regular basis and we're doing it fast. We're not messing around. This is moving quickly."
Also, Chesney said, lifeguards will be returning to county beaches for the first time since 2002.
“We love our beaches -- we have wonderful beaches," he said. "We have very few (life-threatening) occurrences, but we don't want any.”
Denson also announced the Je’Sani Smith Beach Safety Alert Network, her campaign to increase beach safety and eventually create a statewide alert system.
Denson will be on the beach during Spring Break handing out bracelets, as well as brochures, on rip-current safety. She hopes to remind people to float with the rip current instead of fighting it.
“Everyone deserves to live,” she said. “Everyone deserves to live their life out.”