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Summer boating season ends with sad statistics

Boaters are enjoying 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, the final major weekend of the 2020 summer boating season (September 5-7), enjoyed great weather, drawing thousands of boaters to local lakes and waterways.Ahead of the busy weekend, and to ensure all those visiting the waterways to have an enjoyable time, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency emphasized the use of life jackets while boating safely and responsibly.

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 operation, and for a good reason. Sadly, the agency has reported two boating-related fatalities over the 2020 Labor Day holiday period. The two separate incidents occurred on Old Hickory Lake in Middle Tennessee, and Watts Barr Lake in Roane County.

TWRA officers were dispatched to a third incident on the Hatchie River, but it was reported to be medical related. The agency has seen an increase in paddle craft activity throughout the state on rivers and streams, lakes and reservoirs.

“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.”

The Labor Day incidents bring the number of 2020 statewide fatalities to 24. In 2020 on Tennessee waters, TWRA reported 22 boating-related fatalities, an increase of 16 from the same time last year. There have also been 49 incidents resulting in 65 people injured and 70 property damage incidents. The TWRA Boating and Law Enforcement Division compiled the Labor Day weekend statistics after receiving reports from the agency’s four regions.