Patrols work to keep lakes safe, especially during the holidays - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports


Patrols work to keep lakes safe, especially during the holidays


It's been a dangerous couple of weeks on the water.

Just Sunday a young man visiting Kansas City drowned in a pond at Kessler Park. The weekend before that, a man in his 50s died at Hillsdale Lake while on a waterskiing trip. The day before, a teenager drowned at Longview Lake and his two friends had to be rescued from the water. Authorities said they were trying to swim across the lake.

They highlight just three of the most recent deadly accidents reported this summer. To help prevent further tragedies, more patrol boats than ever will be out over the Fourth of July weekend.

Friday has been the perfect day for Dan Fichter and his family to spend in his boat on Blue Springs Lake.

"We'll do some swimming, bring some food, do some picnicking," Fichter said.

Jeffrey Martens and his friends also enjoyed their day on the water.

"Just come out, hang out, chill out, get some sun," he said.

He wasn't alone as Blue Springs Lake was very busy.

"As soon as it gets warm, people head out to the lakes and rivers and make some simple mistakes that end in tragedy," said Corporal David Campbell.

The Missouri Highway Patrol said weekends like this often present a risk for inexperienced boaters who make simple mistakes that can turn deadly. Campbell said many of the accidents that occur during holiday weekends are from beginners who rent or borrow a boat for the day.

"People just assume they can give it the gas and go and they don't familiarize themselves with any of the boating laws or safe practices of boating before they jump out and start doing it," Campbell said. "People operate too close to each other. They don't properly seat people in their boat so they ride on the edges when they fall out."

He said novice swimmers also make deadly mistakes, especially in crowded lakes. He said most drownings happens when people panic in deep water.

"They're not qualified to attempt a long distance swim across a cove or to a dock. So, due to that fact, use good judgment," Campbell said.

That's why Fichter always makes sure young boaters wear life jackets and stay away from crowded areas of the lake where he sees unsafe activities.

"I hope everybody is responsible, enjoys themselves, has a good time today," he said.

Martens said he comes to the lake to have fun, but that safety in a crowded lake is his first priority, especially when it comes to young swimmers.

"Safety concerns, driving around everyone in the boat needs to have a life jacket available for themselves and everybody in the boat. Pretty much common sense," he said.

The highway patrol said every lake is fully staffed with water rescue boats, especially for the Fourth of July weekend. One officer said, when he's on patrol, he looks for boaters who are driving recklessly or people who appear to have had too much to drink.

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