No major incidents on lakes over Memorial Day weekend

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COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – The past weekend saw very few boating violations at Clarks Hill Lake in Georgia and Lake Thurmond in South Carolina. But Georgia DNR reports there is one people need to be mindful of when enjoying the water.

The biggest violation on the lake this past weekend was life jackets, according to DNR Game Warden Cpl. Bobby Timmerman. So, we spoke with people about staying safe while boating where multiple drownings have taken place already this season.

“You can’t horse around,” said Tim Swanson, a boater from Bulloch County visiting Mistletoe State Park. “I don’t get out of this boat without a life jacket on. And I can swim.”

Tracy Thompson, another boater arriving Monday afternoon from Augusta, told us “There’s ten of us on the boat and we have 12 life jackets. We got the life ring.”

Memorial Day boaters did not leave anything to chance as they spent time on Clarks Hill Lake.

“We have 11 grandkids, so we take the littlest to the biggest, they’re all covered with life jackets,” said Michelle Swanson, of Bulloch County.

Tim Swanson added, “Even the dog. He has a life jacket too.”

Georgia DNR told NewsChannel 6 in addition to the life jacket citations, people have also committed wake zone violations.

“Anytime you’re in a no wake zone, your boat has to be at idle speed. In Georgia, idle speed is defined as, as slow as your boat can go, you still being able to steer it,” Cpl. Timmerman said.

DNR also released this weekend’s boating data.

Courtesy: Georgia DNR
Courtesy: Georgia DNR

The Thomson Region saw a drowning, boating under the influence as well as a boating incident and injuries. But most of that was at other lakes, Georgia DNR Public Affairs Officer Mark McKinnon said. He added, the drowning in Region 3 (Thomson Region) occurred in the Ocmulgee River in Twiggs County. A 21-year-old man was swimming in the river on Saturday. He began to struggle, went under, and did not resurface. Approximately 3 hours later, he was recovered by the Houston County Dive Team in 9 feet of water. His body was turned over to the Twiggs County Coroner. There was no identity shared.

Clarks Hill Lake saw no incidents through last night. South Carolina DNR’s David Lucas also told us there were no major accidents reported on Lake Thurmond thus far.

“Saturday especially, the water was really choppy. You probably had three foot swells out there,” Cpl. Timmerman said. “So, it really wasn’t conducive for a lot of boaters to be out on the big water.”

Cpl. Timmerman adds while alcohol was found on boats, most of the captains were not drinking.

People told us they will continue to do the right thing.

Tracy Thompson said, “A lot of it has to do with just being safe on the water and paying attention to your surroundings. As long as you do that, then it’s not different than being a car on the interstate.”

While this area saw no incidents over the weekend, keep in mind you still need to be safe as Memorial Day usually is the kick off for boating season.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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