Flotation rings installed at Tempe Town Lake after man's drowning

City officials are halfway done installing flotation rings all around Tempe Town Lake.

The installation comes a year after Sean Bickings drowned in the lake. Tempe officials say they can't discuss Bickings' drowning because of ongoing litigation, but all of this work to make the lake safer began after May 28, 2022.

Bickings was at the lake with someone else when officers responded to a domestic disturbance call.

Body-camera video shows Bickings at the water's edge, and he reportedly tried to get away from officers by entering the water. Transcripts from the video revealed Bickings said he was drowning.

Officers did not jump into the water and Bickings drowned.

In a new lawsuit, Bickings' family has asked for the lake to be safer. Tempe has now equipped officers with rescue throw bags, and in this new step, life rings surround the lake.

"Both, here at the Tempe Town Lake and at Kiwanis Park Lake, swimming is not permitted at either lake, so the hope here is to have flotation devices in the event that there is an emergency and that somebody could utilize them if they so feel comfortable, but we do want folks to reach out to call 911 first, as you’ll notice on the device themselves, it’s very clear, call 911," said Craig Hayton with the city of Tempe.

No swimming is allowed at the lake except during specified events. The flotation rings are for life-saving purposes only. 

‘It shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit’

For the last week, the city of Tempe has installed half of nearly 40 emergency flotation devices around Tempe town lake.

"Really focus on those areas where there’s an intersection and potential for people in the water," Craig Hayton with the city of Tempe said.

"This should have been installed years ago," says the attorney for Bickings' family, Benjamin Taylor. "It’s one thing to have them now, but it shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit and Sean Bickings' family to put pressure on the city of Tempe to finally have water safety devices after many people have drowned already."