Kentucky drownings on the rise, attributed to kayakers, canoeing

Boat safety on Memorial Day weekend as drownings are on the rise.
Boat safety on Memorial Day weekend as drownings are on the rise.(WBKO)
Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 1:37 PM EDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Memorial Day weekend kicks off the boating season, and officials are encouraging people to remain safe on the water.

Kentucky Fish & Wildlife says they will have officers on a majority of the lakes all weekend patrolling, looking for violations, checking safety equipment issues, etc.

“Every boat, every person on the boat has to have a life jacket. It has to be serviceable, it has to be Coast Guard approved, it has to be in good condition, has to be the right size for that person,” said Sgt. Daniel Richardson, Kentucky Fish & Wildlife.

Many lakes, including Barren River Lake, are expected to be crowded this weekend and therefore, Richardson encourages boat drivers to recruit a passenger onboard as a boat spotter.

“So always have somebody that’s a sober person that can help you look out for other boats and obstacles,” said Richardson.

Additionally, officers patrolling the lakes will be on the lookout for impaired operators.

“A lot of people don’t realize that the alcohol on the water with the sun and the waves of the lake or river you’re on, will actually intensify some of the effects that alcohol can have on the body. So we’re looking for impaired drivers and unsafe riding conditions.”

While Saturday’s weather is expected to be chillier, temperatures will heat up Sunday and Monday, making for more ideal boating conditions. However, Richardson adds that the water conditions are good.

According to Kentucky Fish & Wildlife, drownings in the state of Kentucky are on the rise. During the pandemic, many people took up new water hobbies such as kayaking or canoeing.

In 2019, there were 38 drownings in the state and in 2020, there were 46. This year, the state is already up to 25 drownings so far, more than half of last year’s total and it’s only late May.

“And Memorial Day weekend hasn’t even kicked off. And a lot of those that we’re seeing-- the increase in drownings are from kayakers and canoes and personal watercraft, which it’s a lot of first-time boaters getting into it during the pandemic,” explained Richardson.

Fish & Wildlife offers free boat safety courses online and you can check that out here.

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