Sgt. Jerry Callahan with the Water Patrol says they don’t expect quite as many people out on the water as the Fourth of July weekend, but the Patrol will still be out in force.
“Labor Day is really seen as one big last push in many areas of the state, and being a three day weekend our waters, lakes and rivers should be more crowded,” Callahan said.
Callahan says we’ve already seen 41 drownings in the state this year. He says he would have expected that number to be closer to the low 30s heading into the Labor Day weekend.
“For our boating fatalities, it’s very comparable to years past. For the drownings right now, 41 is kind of a high number. That’s getting back to the 2007-2008 levels we saw,” Callahan said.
There have been 12 deaths in boating accidents so far this year. Callahan says sometimes people don’t have the proper respect for the water if they’re not out on a boat, even though the water is still deep enough to drown in.
“The message we have to people is it’s not just the boating activities that you have to look out for. The majority of these drownings happen just around docks or while people are swimming. Kids are required to wear life jackets if they’re under 7 (years old) in boats. There’s no state law for docks. But these numbers show you may be more likely to fall off a dock than out of a boat, so anytime you’re around the water you need to make sure that you practice your water safety skills, watch your children. You, yourself, make sure you know your swimming ability,” Callahan said.
Callahan says water patrolmen this weekend will be looking for impaired boaters, and those with equipment violations, and will also be on hand for emergencies.
“It’s important even though it’s the end of year, end of the boating season traditionally, that people make sure any equipment problems with their boat, any torn equipment, gets repaired. You don’t want a mishap to happen that last week you’re out,” Callahan said.
He says just because something’s worked all summer, doesn’t mean it won’t strand you out on the water.