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As the summer kicks off, marina manager pushes for boater safety

In 2020, there have already been four drownings on Lake Norman compared to one in 2019. All four drowning victims have been on boat rentals.

LAKE NORMAN OF CATAWBA, N.C. — The search continues for a missing boater on Lake Norman. Officials are now calling it a recovery mission to find 27-year old Greg Cates.

He jumped into the water Sunday morning and never resurfaced. WCNC Charlotte has learned the group Cates was with was renting a boat.

RELATED: Search continues after man swimming in Lake Norman went missing

In 2020, there have already been four drownings on Lake Norman compared to one in 2019. All four drowning victims have been on boat rentals. None of the victims were wearing life jackets.

Many times the experience level of renters varies, and sadly experience can be the difference between a safe day out on the water and a tragedy.

“Every year – it’s a bad thing to say – but it does happen,” Lake Norman Marina Manager Hank Lail said.

According to North Carolina state law, anyone born Jan. 1, 1988 or after must have a boater education certificate. However, there are nearly a dozen exemptions including renters. 

The requirements for renters are left entirely up to rental companies like Lake Norman Marina.

“We cut the gray area out,” Lail said. “You have to be 26 years of age to rent or drive the boat.”

If you’re 26, you’re good to go. Still, Lake Norman Marina says they take safety seriously and even have their own YouTube video they send to renters to watch before they push off.

“Bridges, safety, anything that you might encounter that we can think of, we included,” Lail said.

Some companies are less stringent than Lake Norman Marina, so the responsibility of safety really lies with the boat’s operator and its passengers.

“We love it when people come in and are cautious and paying close attention especially when the little ones are around,” Lail said.

Lail says it’s been a noticeably busier year on the lake, and with July 4th weekend looming there is certain to be a large amount of traffic on the water.

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