DONIPHAN, MO (KAIT) - Ahead of the Labor Day weekend, officials with the Missouri State Water Patrol told Region 8 News Friday people need to be responsible while on the state's waterways. In light of a fatal accident in July where authorities said alcohol was involved, the MSWP said alcohol is attributed in 40% of all fatal and serious accidents.
"Every weekend I usually see, you got people out here on this stretch of river here. We got a lot of boat traffic. Jets, boaters and a lot of people mixed in floating and canoes and rafts and both the people in the boats and the rafts are consuming alcohol," said Patrolman Logan Monahan with the Missouri State Water Patrol.
Monahan took Region 8 News on a tour of the Current River in Doniphan Friday afternoon. When our cameras were on the river, there were only about 30 people present. Monahan said the river will hold nearly 1,000 people on weekends when weather is pleasant.
"As long as there are good weekends, people will be out and enjoying it and a lot of times, Saturdays and Sundays are real congested. It's hard to navigate through some parts of the river," said Monahan.
According to Monahan, the Current River in Doniphan is one of the nicest rivers in southeast Missouri. He said the river used to have a trash problem, which has been cleared up in recent years.
"People use these gravel bars here you see on the shorelines. They'll park there, camp out and eat lunch, stuff like that, but when they do get hot and get to running around, it's busy about anywhere through here," said Monahan.
"We don't want to see any more trash than what is already in the river. We already have a big enough problem with littering, with people bringing glass to the rivers. We try to keep that and we're strictly enforcing, the Missouri State Water Patrol, the conservation agents and the Ripley County Sheriff's Department. We all do our effort to help make sure the river is clean," said Monahan.
According to Monahan, people get in trouble when they drink and drive boats on the river.
"People forget that alcohol affects them 3 times greater on water than it does on land. You go the boating stressors such as being out in the hot sun all day, the bouncing around on the waves, you got the engine sound getting to you, it wears your body down a lot quicker and then you add alcohol on top of that, people forget. Their coordination skills decrease rapidly and that's when we start to see our problems in the afternoons when people have been out here all day and have had too much to drink and they don't realize it affects them that quickly," said Monahan. "The major problems are, as any other water way, each one of them has their own set of risks and challenges, people just got to be responsible. When they come to the river, and the main problem we have is when people come and drink too much alcohol."
Region 8 News also spoke with several boaters Friday afternoon. Michael Page said he was nearly hit by a drunk driver 2 weeks ago.
"We've been up river and an individual with several in the boat got a little too close to us. They could have taken the other side. I don't know for what reason but they got a little too close," said Page. "We seen an individual trying to load his boat up. Later that evening, you could tell he was intoxicated. He liked to have thrown himself out of the boat himself."
Page said he's noticed more patrolmen with the Missouri State Water Patrol riding along the Current River over the past few weeks.
"When it's busy and there's alcohol involved, it's pretty scary. We try to go either down where the traffic isn't as bad or as heavy or we just come during the week," said Page.
"You got a lot of people who come out here during the fall and stuff for hunting and it's a big deal around here but during the summer months. The river does bring a lot of people in. It's a pretty river and you can come out here and enjoy yourself and through about may through September it brings a lot of tourism in, as far as people wanting to come over and enjoy the river," said Monahan.
"Most of the citations I write involve drug or alcohol violations. There is a lot of boating violations too. It just depends on what type of people. You get a lot of people who bring drugs to the river and that are drinking alcohol, but we do also see a lot of boating violations here on the river as any part of the state does," said Monahan.
"You can't ever expect anything but you always got to be ready for everything. You never know what's going to happen. That's part of this job. We could have a boating accident or have someone get hurt just as easily walking down the shoreline, you never know what's going to happen out here," said Monahan.
Page told Region 8 News he changed when he comes to the river.
"It's just the traffic, as you can see right now, there's not very many people out there, you come tomorrow, that beach over there just in this one area will be packed. Boats pulled up and it'll be busy," said Page.