BATON ROUGE — While Louisiana’s boating season lasts nearly year-round, Adam Einck of the Law Enforcement Division of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said summer brings a increase in accidents and fatalities.
Enforcement officers from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries have conducted several investigations of regional waterways in recent weeks.
At around 8 p.m. on July 4, the body of Madison Bradley, 17, of Slidell, was found in the Blind River. Officers were notified of a missing boater around 5:40 p.m. The investigation found that Bradley was a passenger on a pontoon boat with five other people and was riding on the bow in front of the guard rail with a male passenger. Bradley and the male passenger went overboard when the boat struck the wake of a passing ship. While the male passenger surfaced with minor injuries, Bradley suffered severe incidental impacts and did not surface.
The ship’s operator, David Crowe, 33, of Denham Springs, was arrested for homicide while driving, impaired operation of a ship (DWI) and reckless operation of a ship.
In Louisiana, a DWI on the water carries the same penalties as a DWI on the road, including jail time, fines, and loss of driving/boating privileges. The first offense is usually punishable by a fine of $300 to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Wildlife & Fisheries is participating in the Operation Dry Water awareness and enforcement campaign.
An enhanced enforcement was put in place over the recent 4th of July holiday weekend. From July 2-4, 12 boaters were arrested across the state for allegedly operating a vessel while intoxicated. This included arrests in the parishes of Natchitoches, L’Assomption, Les Rapides, Livingston, Calcasieu, Pointe Coupee, Union, Saint-Martin and Terrebonne.
Four other people were arrested for DWI on the waterways in the last week of June, according to LWF press releases.
Another recent investigation involved a boating incident that killed three people on June 26, where the Blind River empties into Maurepas Lake. On June 27, search and rescue teams recovered the bodies of Michael Bryant, 48, of Denham Springs, Zachary LeDuff, 18, of Greenwell Springs and Zane Bryant, 20, of Denham Springs.
According to the inquest, the three men were passengers on a pontoon boat when LeDuff went swimming and became distressed in the water. Bryant unsuccessfully attempted to save LeDuff, and Bryant unsuccessfully attempted to save the two young men. The three men were not wearing flotation devices and did not surface.
Several waterways in southeast Louisiana, including the Blind River, Amite River, Floodway, and Lake Maurepas, are considered recreational boating areas.
“They can have high traffic, especially during peak season with Memorial Day weekend, July 4 and also Labor Day weekend. They’re pretty busy most of the summer,” Einck said. “The Blind River has a lot of curves, so you need to be aware that you stay on your side of the water and follow the rules of the road for waterways. Other than that, all boating safety applications apply. almost universally.
According to Einck, the three most important things about boating safety are wearing a life jacket, having a sober operator at all times, and taking a boating education course.
“Nautical education classes are offered statewide, year-round,” Einck said. “Anyone can take the course in person or online, but it is required for anyone born after January 1, 1984. We have boating safety instructors in every region of our state. Usually, almost anyone in the state can find one that’s close enough.
Boating education courses are typically eight hours long and cover topics such as towing and launching your boat, how weather and alcohol consumption affect the water, and the importance of life vest.
A complete schedule of upcoming boating and hunting training courses is available at louisianaoutdoors.com/events.
Other boating safety tips offered by Wildlife & Fisheries include planning a boating route close to shore and checking weather forecasts for rain storms, wind speeds, fog possibilities and tidal conditions. before boarding a boat.
It is also important to stay on the correct side of a waterway, avoid overloading a boat with people or equipment, maintain a safe speed, and use a handle when moving around a vessel. .
For more information on boating safety, visit the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website at wlf.louisiana.gov and navigate to the navigation tab to view regulations and other resources.