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Education curbs boat accidents

By: Jenifer Gee Gold Country News Service
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Two recent fatalities on Placer County waters have raised concerns about boating safety. “It isn’t all fun and games out here,” said Josh Tindall, deputy with the Placer County Sheriff’s marine unit. Speed was the factor in the death of a 53-year-old Roseville man June 21. The man reportedly lost control of his boat at a high speed while on the Camp Far West Reservoir. The boat sank and the man’s body was recovered shortly after midnight the next day. Tindall said many boaters gun it out of dock areas well before they reach the 100-yard boundary that allows speeds over 5 mph. “They think they can leave the docks and they can hit it,” Tindall said. Tindall is one of about 12 deputies who work on the marine unit, which patrols area waterways including Folsom Lake, Rollins Lake, Lake Tahoe, Camp Far West Reservoir and more. The deputies are paid overtime to patrol the waters on their days off, Friday through Monday, during the summer. “Most of the time it’s about prevention and education,” said Josh Shelton, marine unit deputy. “A lot of people just aren’t aware of boating safety laws.” Shelton said often times when they pull a boat over, it’s to check that all necessary safety equipment is on board or to remind them of laws. Other times they do issue citations. The lack of education sometimes is a result of a lack of requirements for boaters. There is no course or test boaters have to pass, yet Shelton said he encounters many who are not aware of basic right-of-way rules. Those boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs are another problem, Shelton said. Boaters are allowed to drink and have alcohol on their boats, but Shelton cautions that it can cause problems fast on waterways where there are no clear guides on the water and no speed limit. “Boating is inherently dangerous,” Shelton said. “It’s pretty scary that a lot of people think it’s OK to come out and boat under the influence.” Tindall and Shelton have responded to their share of tragic accidents. Shelton remembers a nighttime accident in Lake Tahoe a few years ago. One boat essentially T-boned another boat at 35 mph, which sent both its occupants into the dark waters without life jackets on. Shelton said it was a “miracle” that those involved survived, albeit with major injuries. Tindall said four to five years ago a pair of brothers was at the Rattlesnake Bar entrance to Folsom Lake. One brother jumped on an idle jet ski. The force of his jump pushed the Jet Ski over his brother. The body was found a few yards away under an overhang. “A lot of times people think we’re jamming them up on little things,” Tindall said. “But (accidents) happen.” A Carmichael family enjoying Folsom Lake last week said they take safety seriously – especially when children are inside their family sport boat. “We always go over the rules before we go out,” Sina Rahe said. “We have a two-minute sit down.” Rahe said the family has taken a few safety courses ever since they bought a boat. “We think we’re pretty well-versed in boat safety,” Rahe said. “You have to be defensive as well as offensive when you’re out there.”