Officials encourage boater safety during Labor Day weekend


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — For some people, Labor Day weekend marks summer’s last hurrah, and a lake trip marks the transition into fall. During this period, boating safety is at its utmost importance as a large number of people go out on the water.

“I’m having quite a bit of fun,” said Devyn Glaspie, a Kansas woman who came to Northwest Arkansas to spend her holiday weekend. “I’ve never been to Beaver Lake. It’s been a great time kayaking with my boyfriend and his parents.”

The latest national statistics show the U.S. Coast Guard counted 633 deaths in 2018 as a result of recreational boating accidents. Eight-five percent weren’t wearing a life jacket.

Steve Chyrchel is the interpreter for Hobbs State Park near Beaver Lake, and he said he’s seen what happens when folks don’t think about safety when they’re on the water.

“[They think] ‘I don’t need to be safe. I can just go out and do this. I can just run my boat anyway I want, and they’re gonna watch for me,'” Chyrchel said. “No, you’ve gotta watch out for them.”

At Beaver Lake, all recreational vehicle (RV) spots are filled, as of Sunday. This meant more than 100 people were partaking in the area’s natural features, including the water. Chyrchel said wearing a life jacket is the most important thing one can do to save his or her life in case of an accident.

“Drinking and driving your car doesn’t work, [and] drinking and driving a boat doesn’t work,” Chyrchel said. “Always wear your flotation device. I don’t care how good a swimmer you are. You bonk your head, and you’re out? You’re out.”

Glaspie said she and her companions studied up on lake safety before going out to Beaver Lake.

“We’ve got our life jackets with us,” Glaspie said. “You’re supposed to ride with a whistle, and of course, if you’re gonna be out after dark, you’re supposed to have a flashlight. We’ve got all that on board, so we’re good to go.”

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