Local law enforcement will beef up water patrols for holiday weekend

Local law enforcement will beef up water patrols for holiday weekend


by BORA KIM / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @BoraKimWCNC


Posted on May 24, 2013 at 6:46 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Local law enforcement will increase patrols at area lakes this Memorial Day weekend.

With more than 40,000 registered boaters living in the four counties covering Lake Norman, it is expected to get very crowded this Memorial Day weekend.

That means local law enforcement will be out in full force to make sure everyone is safe on the water.

"Historically, Lake Norman has the most boating accidents out of any body of water in the whole state. It's only second to the inter-coastal waterway of North Carolina," said Officer Randy Echerd.

Echerd is with CMPD's Lake Enforcement Unit. His unit is among many agencies planning to patrol area waterways this weekend.

"We are always looking for children under 13 not wearing life jackets, and operators who are boating while impaired. Careless operation would be our third biggest problem. Of course jet skies tend to have access, they are very maneuverable, they get too close together to piers and we have accidents, so we will be watching for those, as well," he said.

Last week, the state announced the re-launch of the "On the Road, On the Water, Don't Drink and Drive" campaign, now in its third year.  Extra patrols and sobriety checks will take place starting Memorial Day weekend.

Last summer, nearly 30 people were killed on the North Carolina waterways. Many of the accidents were caused by impaired operators.

Jeff Reiken of Concord was out on Lake Norman, on the eve of the busy weekend, to take his newly purchased boat out for its maiden voyage.

"Safety is going to be really important, especially this weekend when there is going to be people out, and probably lot of people drinking," he said.

 "I've definitely had my experience with drunk boaters, and it’s not fun anywhere you go. Typically people who have been drinking don't boat safe. They don't pay attention to wake zones, or other boats coming in and out of the area. It’s just dangerous. It's best to not drink and stay off the water if you do," said Reiken.

Wildlife officers with the N.C. WIldlife Commission will also be out making sure the public follows current rules and regulations on the water. Boaters are advised to do a pre-launch inspection.  Officers say planning is key.

"For a lot of people, this is their first weekend out. We encourage you to go through your boat, make sure all the safety equipment is there, make sure your battery is all charged up before you leave. Don't wait until you come to the ramp to see you battery is dead. Jump it off and go out there in the lake, because many times it won't charge up to maintain the operation of the boat," said Echerd.

A boating checklist and vessel operator's guide can be found here: www.ncwildlife.org/boating

One important state regulation requires anyone younger than 26 operating a vessel powered by a 10-horsepower or greater motor to complete an approved boating safety education course and carry their certification, or otherwise be in compliance. The Wildlife Commission offers free boating safety education courses throughout the year.