Holiday weekend prompts attention to boating safety |

Holiday weekend prompts attention to boating safety

Susan Wood
Nevada Appeal News Service

After two drownings already this year, marine authorities are hoping Lake Tahoe doesn’t turn deadly this summer as it has in the last two years for boating enthusiasts.

Last year, nine drownings were reported – three of those in five days.

Units from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department to the U.S. Coast Guard are convinced the steady use of certified life vests may help avert such tragic incidents.

A local man lost his life this week after he fell overboard from his sailboat near the Tahoe Keys channel and never re-emerged from the 42-degree water. He wasn’t wearing a life vest.

In March, a Tahoe City man drowned when his rowboat capsized. He wasn’t wearing a life vest.

“Both deaths would have been prevented if they wore life jackets. In this water, you don’t float. We want everyone wearing them,” Coast Guard spokesman Josh Martin said. As Tahoe prepares for the holiday weekend, the water “can’t be over 50 (degrees),” he added. “The water is still dangerous.”

His Tahoe City station will get five custom life jackets that inflate upon hitting the water. The hydrostatic inflators, which are equipped for the first responders with a signal mirror, strobe, flare kit, whistle and emergency beacon, are available at

Federal law requires people under the age of 13 to wear life jackets, but expanding the rule to include adults would take an act of Congress.

And a recent law makes it mandatory for boats to carry fire extinguishers.

State laws for both California and Nevada have been updated through the years. Two years ago, Nevada made it a law that every boat carry a throwable life preserver.

Ken Hunt and Steve O’Brien, who man the police marine unit, keep life preservers on board to give away to babies if boats don’t have them.

The officers have seen their share of mishaps on the lake, which Hunt equates to boating activity all over California.

“If you do the same thing in the warm water, nothing will happen,” Hunt said.

“Most of these accidents happen when people go swimming. They jump off the boat to cool off.”

Lake Tahoe drownings/fatalities

• 2007 through Thursday – 2 (the decade average)

• 2006 – 9

• 2005 – 5

• 2004 – 1

• 2003 – 1

• 2002 – 0

• 2001 – 1

Boating safety tips

• Wear a certified life vest and wetsuit

• Develop a sailing plan

• Never go out alone

• Carry a cell phone and global-positioning system

– Source: U.S. Coast Guard

• Contact reporter Susan Wood at


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