Berks boating mishap survivor: 'Think safety before anything'

Brandon Allen's best friends drowned; neither wore life jacket

Author: , Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published: Jun 10 2013 08:00:00 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 12 2013 05:52:16 AM EDT
MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa. -

Officials have sounded the alarm after four people from Berks County were killed in water-related accidents in a matter of weeks.

It's a painful lesson that will stay with one survivor for the rest of his life.

The letters JMV and CCM are tattooed on the wrists of Brandon Allen as permanent reminders of his two best friends, Jonny Velez and Cody Moyer.

Allen, of Muhlenberg Township, is still traumatized after surviving a brush with death on the water. Now, he has a message he wants everyone to follow.

"Think safety before anything, because you never know what's going to happen," said Allen, who graduated with Velez and Moyer from Muhlenberg High School.

The bodies of Velez and Moyer were pulled out of the Susquehanna River last week after their boat capsized. Allen managed to swim to safety, but he admitted no one was wearing a life jacket.

"We weren't all thinking, we went out to have a good time and go fishing and tragedy happened and I regret every moment of it," said Allen.

In April, Jose Suarez, of Exeter Township, was found dead on the banks of the Susquehanna after his boat capsized. Officials said he was also not wearing a life jacket.

Then, there is little Andrew Budhu. The 20-month-old was pulled out of his family's swimming pool in Spring Township over the Memorial Day weekend. 

Four separate tragedies happened so close together, so early in the season.

John Cave, park manager at Blue Marsh Lake in Bern Township, said it's crucial to stay safe on the water.

He stated boaters and swimmers need to be aware of their surroundings, swim with a friend so they can help you recognize danger, only swim in areas where you know the depth of the water and most importantly, wear a life jacket.

"It'll save your life because most people didn't expect to be in the water, and that life jacket will save their life," said Cave.

It's a message that Allen now lives by.

"Even if you don't feel like it's comfortable or it's hot out, put the life jacket on, or at least put it in the boat so you have it," said Allen.