After tragedy, The BMF Project aims to keep the water safe

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DALLAS -- It's heating up already! We've reached 80 degrees in North Texas on back-to-back February days, but while visions of water and waves hang over your heads, please don't forget about Brandon Fugate.

Just 18 years old in 2008, a short trip on Lake Ray Hubbard turned tragic for a young man his dad described as having 'the biggest heart of anybody I've ever known.'

Brandon, his cousin, and another friend were tossed from their boat without life jackets on after a nice day turned turbulent. His buddies were rescued by a nearby fisherman, but Brandon had disappeared. The water that November 29 was 42 degrees and the search went on for 29 days.

"You're lost, and you don't know what to do, how to do it, where to go," his father, Mike Fugate, said. "It's really devastating."

Brandon was found December 28 with the help of what his dad said with nine or 10 different agencies.

His family's immediate resolution was to do all they could to keep this from happening again.

"I would look at the hurt of the game wardens, the police officers, the firefighters when they'd have to come off the water and say, 'I'm sorry. We didn't find your son today.'" Mike Fugate said.

That signaled the start of The BMF Project.

They raise money to buy search and rescue equipment for underfunded search teams in our area and beyond, and every major lake and river in this area has a sonar system thanks to them, according to Fugate.

They also provide water safety education with a mascot, Larry the Life Vest.

As for their logo, it has a special, and heartbreaking, meaning.

"Instead of making us go in and identify his body, they used the tattoo to identify him, to make a positive ID," Fugate said. "If they ID`d him by that, I wanted that to be part of how we`re identified."

Most recently, the BMF Project presented a sonar system to the Dallas Police Department in the name of drowned SMU Officer Mark McCullers.

So is the project really helping this family?

"Doing this will never take the pain away of losing Brandon, but knowing that we may save one person, it does help," Fugate said.

And they can know all their help is happening in Brandon's name.