OZARK, Ala. (WDHN) — It’s only midway through the summer, and so far, the state of Alabama has had roughly 70 boating accidents, with 25 of those resulting in deaths this year.
This makes 2019 the deadliest year on state waterways in more than 20 years.
“We generally tell everyone, of course, to pay attention to your surroundings and what’s going on around you,” Ed Lisenby Lake supervisor Laith Fontenot said. “You have to be very mindful at all times of what’s going on not just in your boat, but in the water and the people around you.”
In July alone, at least a dozen crashes resulted in 6 fatalities. The last time Alabama Marine Patrol saw that many boating deaths in a year was in 1998 when 32 people were killed statewide.
“The traffic’s not too bad here like it is in some places, but you still have stuff you have to look out for,” Fontenot said.
Law enforcement can’t definitively pinpoint the reason for the increased deaths, but they tend to think the problem may be linked to increased boater registrations combined with more alcohol use by drivers.
“Please don’t drink and boat,” Fontenot said. “It’s not worth it.”
According to a report by AL.com, the state has also seen a decrease in marine patrol presence on our rivers and lakes; with only roughly 45 marine officers patrolling our waterways throughout the entire state.
“As far as our game and wardens go, they are kind of short-handed,” Fontenot said.
The report by AL.com went on to say that ALEA currently has 21 marine patrol vacancies they are trying to fill.