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Officials remind boaters to wear life jackets after a dozen deaths so far this year

(FILE)
(FILE)(Associated Press)
Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 3:20 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is reminding boaters to wear a life jacket while out on any body of water.

According to the DWR, Virginia has seen 67 boating accidents, resulting in a dozen deaths and numerous injuries so far this year. Officials said most of those deaths could have been prevented with a life jacket, which is required for every person on any boat or vessel on Virginia waters.

Over the holiday weekend, Conservation Police Officers were out in force looking for boaters who were under the influence and boaters who did not have proper safety equipment.

“Over this long weekend of heightened enforcement, 105 CPOs patrolled 41 bodies of water, conducted 205 patrols that put them in contact with 2,505 boats; which was a 19% increase over the same weekend last year. These patrols and contacts resulted in the arrests of 7 boat operators for Boating under the Influence, 358 boating safety law warnings and the issuance of 205 boating safety citations,” a release from the DWR said.

Officers also responded to five boating accidents, assisted numerous stranded and distressed boaters, investigated illegal fishing complaints and conducted search and rescue operations for two missing boaters, who were later found unharmed.

Officials said they saw a great response from the awareness messaging leading up to the holiday weekend with a number of designated operators.

“The increased number of designated operators absolutely led to a decrease in accidents,” said Major Scott Naff, Law Enforcement Assistant Chief of Operations for DWR. “With alcohol use being a leading factor in boating deaths and drownings due to boaters not having PFDs, we feel our messaging and enforcement efforts are gaining the compliance needed to save lives. It cannot be stressed enough, designate before you operate and life jackets save lives.”

For more information on boating safety and requirements, click here.

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