SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Memorial Day weekend is often viewed as the unofficial start of summer. Lakes are filled with people, boats, fun, and unfortunately danger.

Stats released by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency after the holiday weekend were startling and something Senior Trooper Chuck Daniel says he is disappointed in.  Memorial Day weekend played host to seven vessel related accidents, 11 boating under the influence arrests, and two fatalities.

The fatalities occurred on the Tallapoosa River in Cleburne Co. on Sunday, May 28 while a father and his two sons were kayaking. 34-year-old Jason Smith of Heflin went into the river with his three and four-year-old children. ALEA says Smith and his three-year-old son, who were not wearing personal flotation devices, drowned, and their bodies were recovered the next day.

“Both of these deaths were preventable,” said Daniel. “Everyone needs to prepare for an unforeseen event in case you end up in the water, especially if you have your children on the vessel with you.”

So far in 2017, 10 fatalities have taken place on Alabama waterways which Daniel says is high for this early in the boating season.

The highest number of injuries on the water take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day which law enforcement calls “the 100 days of summer.” Daniel said with the vastness of lakes in the state it is very difficult to police everyone. To ensure these 100 days are as safe as they can be, Daniel shared some key tips:

  • Always have life jackets ready. Each person on a vessel should have a life vest easily accessible in case a tragedy occurs, and all children under nine years of age are required to wear a life jacket on a boat. A vessels should also have a throwable flotation device on board.
  • Never drink alcohol and operate a vessel. Daniel said this act will not be tolerated on Alabama waters, and the consequences are just as severe as a DUI. Daniel also explained that some lakes do not allow alcohol, and warned against drinking on a dry lake.
  • The emergency cut-off switch is required to be worn by the operator for all vessels under 24 feet long. The majority of all accidents in 2017 are due to the emergency cut-off switch being used incorrectly or not being worn at all.
  • Make sure everything is in working order. Daniel listed life jackets, fire extinguishers, whistles, and even larger parts of a vessel like the motor and steering. If everything is not in working order or being used the way it is intended to be used, things can turn deadly quickly.
  • Always be aware of lake levels and have a spotter on your vessel to watch for debris in lakes. Daniel said heavy rains this spring have causes lake levels to rise quicker than usual, and forced large amounts of debris into waterways. He said debris can cause your boat to malfunction, resulting in injury or death.

Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2017, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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