Tennesseans will soon be flocking to the state’s waterways to cool off during the summer, but the water can also be a dangerous place for those not taking precautions.
The May 29-31 Memorial Day holiday weekend is expected to be one of the busiest of the year with many boaters going to the water for the first time in 2021.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) urges the use of lifejackets in order to avoid loss of life. A Decatur man recently lost his life on the water.
The Decatur man was pronounced dead at the scene earlier this year and a second boater was able to swim to shore when their 14-foot, flat bottom johnboat sank.
TWRA officers were dispatched to the Cottonport Marina area and found that two men were in a johnboat that sank in six feet of water in Johns Slough, just south of the Cottonport Marina. A nearby angler heard the commotion and went to assist.
Meigs County, TWRA and several good Samaritans assisted with recovery of the deceased.
No official reason was given for the boat to sink, however it was reported that the deceased was not wearing a life jacket.
The TWRA also stresses the responsible use of alcohol while boating. It is important to consider the effects of drinking and driving whether on water or land, according to officials.
In a boat on the water, the effects of alcohol increase because of external stressors such as engine vibration, wave motion and glare from the sun. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in Tennessee.
“We want our boaters and fishermen to enjoy their time on our waterways,” said Capt. Matt Majors, statewide boating investigator. “However, boating incidents are preventable. Boating under the influence is irresponsible and illegal. Our wildlife officers will be out to ensure the safety of our boating public.”
According to a press release, the TWRA has seen a noticeable increase in boating traffic during the past year and a boom in the use of paddlecraft, such as kayaks and paddleboards, throughout the state. PFDs are a requirement on kayaks and stand up paddlecraft (SUPs).
Over the 2020 holiday weekend, there was one-boating related fatality which occurred in an incident below Fort Loudoun Dam. The fatality was one of 32 during 2020, the most in 37 years, which came on the heels of a record-low eight in 2019. There have been eight fatalities thus far this year.
For those having boats on the water for the first time this year, TWRA officials say taking a few minutes to check some of the boat components may be the key to having a nice, safe outing. Performing a simple maintenance check before getting on the water may prevent problems.
Check hoses to make sure they are in good shape. Make sure the lights work and carry extra fuses and bulbs.
The 2021 National Safe Boating Week is May 22-28 and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be participating to promote the wearing of life jackets as the summer boating season starts.