Enforcement on Bay area waterways stepped up

Clearwater, FL -- It's already been a deadly holiday weekend on Bay area waterways. So on Memorial Day, several agencies are patrolling the water trying to enforce the rules and promote boater safety.

Not long after the sun came up, FWC Officer Baryl Martin was already stopping boaters.

"You got your registration?" he asked each vessel he'd stop.

Martin also checked on-board safety equipment to make sure it was present and not outdated.

"What I need to see is four adult life jackets," he shouted to a family renting a boat for the day.

Part of Martin's job is also to make sure that someone on each boat is a designated driver.

And how do boaters feel about these stepped-up safety checks in the middle of their holiday fun?

"If you're doing things the right way, what do you have to worry about?" asked K.C. Gibson, who was out fishing with friends.

Sadly, it's already been a dangerous, deadly weekend along Bay area waterways. On Saturday, 70-year-old John Patti died in Lake Tarpon's Brooker Creek. Patti was boating with friends, and jumped into the water to save his dog, a 3-year-old Yorkie named Rascal.

Patti saved Rascal, but ended up drowning, himself.

Another man was injured when his personal watercraft slammed into a piling under the Courtney Campbell bridge. His life-vest, say officials, likely saved the man's life.

Martin says it's been extremely busy. The first weekend of summer for many to go boating means inexperience at a time when the waterways are jam-packed. Now add to that a bout of bad weather that blew through the area on Sunday.

"We've pulled over a dozen people, in the last 24 hours, out of the water," said Officer Martin, "At least five capsized boats in the Tampa Bay area in the last 24 hours."

See Also: More boating safety tips

In addition to life preservers, officials warn against drinking and boating. They also recommend other safety equipment is on board and working, update permits and licenses, look out for channel markers and obey speed signs, and be sure to tell someone who is not on your boat about your boating plan. That way if something goes wrong, rescue crews know where to start searching quickly.

Officials say they're not trying to be a pain; they want folks to have a good time.

They just want to be done safely.


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