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Holiday boating

A local boater enjoys a day of summer fun on Watauga Lake, as Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials emphasize water safety and safe boating. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics

The Labor Day holiday weekend marks the final days of the summer boating season, which falls this year on September 3-5, 2021.
Enjoyed by young and old, the weekend draws thousands of boaters to local lakes and waterways, prompting law enforcement along with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to emphasize boating safety. Once again, TWRA officers promise to be on the watch during the long weekend, keeping an eye out for dangerous boating behavior, such as boating under the influence (BUI) and other reckless operations.

In 2020 on Tennessee waters, TWRA reported 22 boating-related fatalities, an increase of 16 from the same time the year prior. There have also been 49 incidents resulting in 65 people being injured and 70 property damage incidents.

“Paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks are recreational vessels and shouldn’t be treated like toys,” said Cpt. Matt Majors, TWRA Boating Investigator, in an earlier interview. “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.”

The most recent incident reported by TWRA involved agents responding to a drowning call at Rock Harbor Marina on the Cumberland River shortly after 4 p.m. on Sunday, August 29.

A preliminary investigation indicated that an adult male subject was on the bow of a 33-foot vessel as it was approaching the fuel dock at Rock Harbor Marina and fell overboard. Metro Fire, Metro Police, OEM, and TWRA responded and began a search of the area. The body of a 52-year-old Hendersonville man was located in 30 feet of water and recovered by divers just after 7 p.m. He was not wearing a life jacket. The incident is the 17th boating-related death on Tennessee waters in 2021 and comes as a sad reminder of the need to be safe on the water just days before the holiday weekend.

Each year, the TWRA Boating and Law Enforcement Division compile the Labor Day weekend statistics after receiving reports from the agency’s four regions.