July 1, 2017
Already this year, three people have died while kayaking on middle Tennessee's waterways.
Water rescue teams are seeing an increase in calls, and are having to respond to inexperienced kayakers who find themselves in trouble.
If you combine inexperienced kayakers, with people boating under the influence, we have the recipe for a dangerous weekend out on the water.
Many of these incidents can easily be avoided.
“You get folks out on the water who just have no idea what the hazards are,” says Andrea White, with the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association.
White is also an experienced kayaking instructor.
“Anyone who wants to get into paddling (sports), this is where they want to be,” she says of middle Tennessee.
White says, there's a rise in people wanting to take-up paddle sports. But there's not an increase in safety training.
“People don't know what they're getting into. You're running into issues where people are having to help each other more, and don't know how. And you're getting more rescue calls,” said White. “A day's worth of training can not only save your life, it can make a lifetime of fun out on the river.”
The July Fourth weekend is one of the busiest times to be out on the water
TWRA officers like Josh Landrum are out in force looking for boaters who are breaking the law.
“A lot of times we'll see people just operating very recklessly in a boat,” Landrum explains. “Those are typically the vessels that we are targeting to see if they are under the influence. If they are driving recklessly, cutting off other boats too close, stuff like that is what we typically look for.”
This is called "Operation Drywater.” It's a campaign held every Fourth of July weekend, where water officers increase patrols, and focus on people boating under the influence.
“Across the state, so far we've made 50 (boating under the influence) arrests,” said Landrum.
Landrum has this warning for boaters and kayakers alike.
“If you go on the water out here on a busy weekend, and you don't have a life jacket, it creates a dangerous situation,” said Landrum
“85 percent of the time, in any kind of water, it's your life jacket that saves you," adds White.
On Friday night, TWRA officers arrested a man for boating under the influence.
And last week, a McMinnville man died after a kayaking accident on the Collins River.