DNR works to keep boaters safe during Rockville Regatta

JOHNS ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - The annual Rockville Regatta is one of the biggest parties on the water. While it can be a lot of fun for people out on the water, that many boats and people can be dangerous. The Department of Natural Resources works extra hours to keep boaters safe.

For DNR investigators Ray Lewis and Rodney Cutter, being out on the water is part of their everyday job.

Add hundreds of boats and thousands of people and it makes their jobs of keeping people safe more demanding.

"We want people to come out to the water ways and be safe and some people choose not to do that," says Ben Thomas with DNR.

Several arrests for disorderly conduct can lead to authorities transporting people from Rockville to the Charleston County jail. In order to save time with the transport, officers bring down the blood alcohol testing mobile, which is complete with a mini jail cell in the back.

"It lets us get our officers back on the water quicker," Thomas said.

Most of the trouble out on the water is alcohol related. If someone is operating a boat drunk with this many people in the water, the result could be fatal, just like driving drunk.

The rules for drinking and operating a boat are the same as driving a car, but the field sobriety test is much different.

Since there is no walking or standing on one leg, officers have to use their judgment when determining if someone has been drinking.

Many officers are veterans of the Regatta, keeping boaters safe during the event for many years. They say the stories never get old.

"We had a pontoon boat with 29 people, it was sinking while it was going down the river," Thomas said.

DNR brings around 40 officers from all over the state to help out with the Regatta. The blood-alcohol testing mobile is one of two in South Carolina.

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