A woman’s drowning Sunday followed three others on Charlotte-area lakes this month.
On Sunday, Shakira Varner, 27, of Charlotte, drowned in Lake Norman after falling off of a private dock near Island Forest Drive.
Varner was recovered after an estimated 10 minutes underwater, according to a tweet from the Huntersville Fire Department. It’s not yet clear what led to the drowning, which remains under investigation.
Compared with the cooler temperatures and rainy springs of recent years, this year’s weather is perfect for swimming and boating, said Officer Brandon Barbee of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. People are eager to get out on the water, and safety isn’t always the first thing on their mind, he said. He said the Memorial Day weekend crowd was large.
“When people get out there, they’re in a recreational mode, they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re just out here having fun,’” Barbee said.
Cornelius Police Department spokeswoman Betsy Shores said Sunday’s incident was the first drowning case in Cornelius in 2016. Cornelius police responded to one drowning in 2015, Shores said, when the victim fell from a boat at Holiday Marina for what police believe were medical reasons.
The circumstances surrounding two of the previous drownings this year were similar. Both men jumped off boats to swim, without life jackets, and then others on the boats reported them missing after losing sight of them struggling against the currents.
Divers recovered the body of Isia Cruz June 6 from Lake Norman, and the body of Connor Oliver from Lake Wylie on Thursday.
Firefighter and rescue diver Capt. Bradley Long died during the recovery mission from Cruz.
Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue responded to two of the drownings in the past week. They responded to one in 2015, said spokeswoman Karyn Yaussy.
Focusing on safety
In 2015, there were 17 boat-related accidents on Lake Norman, Lake Wylie and Mountain Island Lake, according to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission data. Four were fatal.
Barbee said boaters and swimmers of all ages should wear life jackets anytime they’re on the water.
As summer begins, he added, people are likely on boats for the first time in months – or ever. He recommended that every new operator take a boating safety course, available for free through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
The Lake Norman Marine Commission also has a list of boater education and navigation classes on its website, which executive director Ron Shoultz recommends to boaters of all experience levels.
“The more education the boaters have, the safer the lake’s going to be,” he said.
Rachel Herzog: 704-358-5358; @rachel_herzog
Lake safety classes
You can register for boater education courses through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission at www.ncwildlife.org/Boating/MarinaResources/BoatingEducationCourses.
The Lake Norman Marine Commission lists boater education and navigation classes at http://lnmc.org/lkn/2016-boater-education-navigation-classes/.