‘Life jackets save lives’: Marine patrol ramps up enforcement for holiday weekend

‘Life jackets save lives’: Marine patrol ramps up enforcement for holiday weekend

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries urges water safety heading into the Fourth of July weekend after the agency states 12 people have drowned so far this year.

In a matter of six months the number of boating-related drownings have reached the same number for all of 2018.

"99% of drownings can be solved,” said spokeswoman Paige Pearson. “You just need to wear your life jacket. We're all guilty of it, don't get me wrong, we're all seasoned swimmers, we all know how to do this, but really it only takes a second."

In the last two weeks three men have died while fishing.

On Tuesday, the bodies of Walker Lee Carter and Calvin Baskerville were found at a pond in Dinwiddie County off Old Stage Road.

The two had gone fishing Saturday only to be reported missing the next day. Early Wednesday their boat was recovered, 10 feet down on the bottom of the pond, facing upright.

Investigators said in both cases all three men were not wearing life jackets.

“Drownings can happen in one second,” Pearson said. “You can turn around and someone will be gone and it’s because they didn’t have a life jacket on.”

“It’s definitely a concern,” said Ashton Taylor, a camp counselor with Passages Adventure Camp.

Taylor said counselors with Passages Adventure Camp are focused on teaching water safety at an early age no matter what activity they do.

“Our kids are always in life jackets whenever they’re in the water, which I know isn’t 100% full proof, but I think we do our best to manage the risk,” she added.

“We have a rule that if you’re close enough to spit in the water then you need to be wearing a life jacket,” said Ethan Ruh, another counselor.

Conservation Police Officers (CPOs) with Game & Inland Fisheries are prepared to ticket water goers if you do not have your required life jacket with you whether you’re on a boat, kayak, canoe or paddle board.

“You have to be responsible for yourself, people in your boat, people around you, so please wear a life jacket,” Pearson said.

Agencies also encourage you to communicate with family and friends to let them know where you will be on the water and when you will be back home.

“If something happens then they’ll know how to find you,” Pearson said.

Additionally, Operation Dry Water kicks off Friday, where CPOs will be on the lookout for anyone who is intoxicated while out on the water.

“Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boating deaths in the United States,” stated a Game & Inland Fisheries spokesperson.

In Virginia, boaters who blood alcohol content (BAC) level exceed s the state limit of [.08] can be arrested for BUI and face serious penalties upon conviction including a fine of up to $2,500 and incarceration for a period up to 12 months.

"The penalties are more severe, almost, than driving while intoxicated,” Pearson said. “So be responsible. Just know we are out there, we're there to help you, but we're also out there to make sure that you're boating safely."

Virginia’s CPOs encourage those enjoying the water to report impaired and reckless boat operators at (800) 237-5712 or Wildcrime@dgif.virginia.gov.

Since the start of the Operation Dry Water campaign in 2009, law enforcement officers across the national have removed over 3,500 impaired operators from waterways during the annual three-day weekend.

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