Near drowning survivor backs bill to improve safety of outdoor activities

Greg Barnes, a youth pastor, survived being swept out into the ocean near Pagat.

UPDATE: Bill 241-35 was signed into law as Public Law 87-35 on Friday, June 26th.

After several incidents involving water safety, a number of concerned citizens are supporting legislation that would make outdoor activities on Guam safer.

Five years ago, Greg Barnes, a youth pastor, survived being swept out into the ocean near Pagat.

“The waves came in and out, but none of them made a big splash. But then we saw one and we were like, ‘Oh, this is the one.’ And it came up and it splashed with such a volume of water, that when it came down, it rushed back into the sea and took me in with it,” Barnes said.

For an hour and a half, Barnes fought to stay afloat above the water which was choppy with waves as tall as eleven feet high. He was eventually saved by members of the Navy’s HSC-25.

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Through his experience, he met the Tuttle family, whose 24-year-old son, Kevin, had tragically drowned in the water near the Marbo Cave area a few months before during a family vacation.

In the wake of the passing of 18-year-old Ryo Eda, they are advocating for more legislation that would prevent such incidents from happening again.

Senator Kelly Marsh has introduced Bill 241-35, which aims to provide educational resources and measures that would make outdoor activities on the island safer for both residents and visitors.

Barnes says that resources such as having proper signage, more cell towers for reception, and having life preservers available where people would swim would have greatly helped his situation and many others.

The Legislature recently passed Bill 241, but the Governor still has to approve it for it to be law.

“I think there are a lot of things that could’ve been done. But I think public awareness is not there in terms of signage. Like, a lot of people think it’s safer than it actually is. I thought it was safer than it actually was…and it was a mistake. I was just dragged in. But I wouldn’t have gotten that close if I had known. So there are a lot of different things that could be done and Bill 241 covers everything that we were able to think of,” Barnes said.