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Weekend boating fatality draws attention to continued vigilance on local waterways

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials emphasize water safety and safe boating.

By Tamas Mondovics

While the busy memorial holiday weekend has come and gone, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency emphasized using life jackets while boating safely and responsibly.The effort, of course, is to ensure that all those visiting the waterways have an enjoyable time. TWRA officers were out on the watch during the long weekend for dangerous boating behavior, such as boating under the influence (BUI) and other reckless operations.

TWRA officers are now investigating a boating incident on Fort Loudoun Lake last Saturday afternoon that resulted in the deaths of two people. TWRA Sgt. Roy Smith reports that sometime around 4:30 p.m., a pontoon boat operated by a 70-year-old, Terrance Andrew Dea, traveling upstream in the Little River portion of the lake, was passed by a personal watercraft operated by 18-year-old Emma Renee Fila.

A few minutes later, the pontoon boat came upon the PWC and the female operator floating face down in the water after the PWC had collided with a concrete railroad bridge support. The pontoon boat operator jumped into the water to rescue the PWC operator but was incapacitated by a medical emergency. Bystanders on another boat pulled both victims from the water and administered CPR; however, neither survived, officers said.

Ms. Fila, who was operating the PWC, was wearing a lifejacket and the ignition safety switch lanyard as required by law. Terrance Andrew Dea, the pontoon boat operator, was not wearing a lifejacket. TWRA offers prayers and condolences for the victim’s families and would like to thank the Knoxville Police Dept., Knox Co. Fire and Rescue, and AMR emergency medical services for their assistance.

“Paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks are recreational vessels and shouldn’t be treated like toys,” said Cpt. Matt Majors, TWRA Boating Investigator. “Boaters should have the proper life jackets and wear them. It is important to stay away from swollen creeks and rivers as the waters can be hazardous to novice boaters.”

In 2020 on Tennessee waters, TWRA reported 22 boating-related fatalities, an increase of 16 from the same time the year before. There have also been 49 incidents resulting in 65 people injured and 70 property damage incidents. As the summer boating season heats up, boaters are urged to follow the safety guidelines and not take such direction for granted.

Johnson County’s Watauga Lake is popular boating destination for locals. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency emphasized using life jackets while boating safely and responsibly. Photo by Tamas Mondovics