By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia
Lake Hartwell will be jammed this weekend with holiday visitors and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local officials are warning boaters and swimmers to use some common-sense safety precautions when out on the water.
So far this year, there have been four recreation fatalities on the Corps of Engineers’ Savannah River lakes, and all of them were preventable.
Corps spokesman Billy Birdwell says the most important safety tip while out on the water is to wear a life jacket.
“Wearing a life jacket is the thing that will keep you alive most out on the water,” Birdwell said. “It’s the easiest thing you can do to keep yourself and family safe this holiday weekend and it will help guarantee that you will all have a safe and fun holiday and return home safely.”
Georgia law requires all passengers in a boat 13 years of age and under to have on a life jacket.
Second, Birdwell said watch where you swim and don’t swim so far out you can’t get back.
Finally, Birdwell said if you’re going to be out on a boat or operating a personal water craft, make sure you know how to use it safely.
And a reminder for parents, as of July 1, anyone born on or after January 1, 1998 must take an approved boating safety class before operating a boat or personal water craft on Georgia waters. They must then carry proof with them that they have taken that class when on the lake.
“Each day, especially weekends and holidays, a dedicated group of park rangers and volunteers canvass the lakes to remind people about water safety,” said Joe Melton, a natural resource program manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District. “They are not out there to harass you and probably would rather be enjoying the lake instead of wearing a hot uniform; but they feel that pushing water safety is a worthy cause, even if it saves just one life. If you are approached by one of these individuals, please listen to the message and take it to heart.” .