Agencies urge safety when boating and driving
On the eve of the summer boating season, law enforcement officials gathered at Blythe Landing Park on Lake Norman Thursday to announce a multi-agency effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on roads and waterways.
The annual “On the Road, On the Water Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends.
Officers conduct sobriety checkpoints and increase patrols during busy holiday periods.
The statistics continue to be sobering.
Last year, 25 people died in 21 wrecks on N.C. waterways, according to an annual report on boating wrecks by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
Three of the deaths were on two Charlotte-area lakes over the Fourth of July weekend.
Sheyenne Marshall, 17, of Concord, was knee-boarding with family and friends on Lake Norman in the Mooresville area when a pontoon boat came from behind and hit and killed her, authorities said.
The pontoon driver, 49-year-old Keith Owen Cerven of Mooresville, was charged with boating while intoxicated. His blood alcohol content was .14, almost twice the legal limit, officials said.
The second crash happened hours later on Mountain Island Lake.
A boat carrying four people hit a rock formation around midnight, killing Daniel Schmidt, 60, of Charlotte and Jennifer Schmidt, 29, who was from out of state and here visiting family.
Statewide, 166 boating wrecks were reported in 2015. That was a sharp rise from 130 the previous year and the highest number since 2007, according to the Wildlife Resources Commission report.
The annual enforcement and awareness campaign announced Thursday includes the Wildlife Resources enforcement division, the State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies.
A boat driver can be arrested for being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, although law enforcement officials discourage any alcohol consumption on a waterway. Alcohol can exacerbate sun fatigue and weaken even the strongest swimmers, officials said.