DNR officers patrol Lowcountry waters to prevent fatalities

Published: May. 26, 2014 at 8:20 PM EDT|Updated: May. 26, 2014 at 9:19 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and that means lots of boats out on the water.

Keeping a close eye on things are officers with the state Department of Natural Resources.

They have lots of concerns as the boating season gets into full swing.

"A lot of times they just say let's go, throw the boat in the water and take off," said DNR 1st Sergeant Lee Ellis.

Before taking off, boaters must have the required safety equipment on board.

That includes life jackets for each person.

"They're bulky, they get folks who don't want to wear them all the time. But that's our big thing. If you got it, you need to wear it," Ellis said.

Last year in South Carolina, there were 104 boating accidents.

Twenty six of those accidents were deadly.

In 2012, there were 108 accidents.

Thirteen of those were deadly.

"We haven't found a person who has drowned from a boating accident who had a life jacket on," Ellis said.

That is why DNR officers make spot checks of boats during their patrols to make sure the rules are being followed.

During one stop, officers gave the captain a warning because one of his passengers had her leg hanging over the side of the boat.

 It's legal to drink and drive a boat in South Carolina as long as you are not over the legal limit.

Ellis says sadly there are many boaters who drive drunk

"When you talk to them, you ask would you have driven a car after drinking that amount and they'll tell you no. But they don't have a problem getting behind the wheel of a boat."

Ellis says the officers aren't out here to spoil anyone's party.

They just want to make sure everyone plays by the rules.