Outdoor Corner: Think Safety
I’ve been employed in the petro-chemical industry for most of my working career. “Safety First” sometimes seems like a worn out cliché, but it’s important for many reasons, even in our personal lives.
Since the inception of the current virus situation we’ve been in, we’ve been limited in the places we can go and things we can do. The outdoors is one place where folks were sort of encouraged to be.
Many times when a law is passed or changed, unintended consequences take place that weren’t seen or thought of. When the outdoors became one of the few activities that were allowed, some good unintended consequences took place.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has sold record numbers of fishing licenses in the past four months. Boat sales have sky-rocketed. That has added to the number of folks on the water, which means more opportunities for accidents.
One recent incident was a boating fatality that occurred July 4 in Tensas Parish. The body of Allen K. Wallace, 62, of Bogue Chitto, Miss., was recovered at 11:30 a.m. on July 5 from the Mississippi River.
LDWF agents were notified about 6 p.m. on July 4 about a stranded woman on the banks of the Mississippi River near the town of St. Joseph. The agents were able to rescue the 52-year-old woman from Bogue Chitto, Miss., about 7 p.m.
Agents discovered that the woman and Wallace were traveling upstream in the river in a 15-foot vessel with hand tiller steering when the vessel made a strong turn, ejecting Wallace and the woman into the water. The woman was able to make it to the bank, where she was able to alert a nearby boater, who called for help. Wallace never made it to the bank.
Neither Wallace nor the woman was wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). The kill switch was not being used at the time of the incident. Agents were able to recover the vessel a few miles downstream.
Emergency officials have suspended the search of the Amite River after spending much of Friday afternoon and evening looking for a teenage boy who reportedly jumped into the Amite River and did not resurface.
In another incident, on July 10, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office was notified about a possible drowning in the Amite shortly before 3 p.m. The incident happened in a wooded area at the end of Frenchtown Road, between East Baton Rouge and Bowman Street in Livingston Parish.
About 8 p.m., Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said conditions were too dangerous with the debris and current for first responders to continue the search after dark. He said they will reconvene in the morning.
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, East Side Fire Department, Denham Springs Police Department, District 4 Fire Department and Central Fire Department have been assisting in the search.
The teenage boy's body was recovered from the Amite River in Baton Rouge on Saturday morning after authorities spent hours the day before searching for him, according to a news release. Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said emergency officials found the body about 9 a.m. Saturday, and they do not suspect foul play.
July 3 through July 5, Operation Dry Water, with heightened awareness for impaired boat operators on the waterways, took place across the United States. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Livingston and Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and the US Coast Guard took part on our local waterways
This is not a very popular program to some people who like to be out on the river. But I’d like to explain why this is a necessary endeavor. During a Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association conference a few years ago, I witnessed a demonstration by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Without stating the purpose of the demo, a volunteer was asked to consume alcohol during a totally different presentation. He consumed two beers and two drinks that had one ounce of liquor in each one in about two hours.
At the end of the time, one of the agents asked, “Are you drunk?” He responded that he felt like he was and was asked another question, “Would you drive a car?” He immediately answered that he wouldn’t.
Then asked if he would drive a boat and after giving it a little thought, he answered,
“Probably so.” The volunteer was then given a breathalyzer test and was actually below the legal limit.
The point of this demonstration was to show how the “danger perception” on the water was significantly lower than on the road. The shocked look on the participants face when he admitted he would probably drive a boat when he quickly stated he would not drive a car proved the point.
The feeling of escape, celebration and freedom the water experience provides is very understandable. I’ve been on the water for as far back as I can remember, and I love it. But those emotions tend to make us feel that our waterways have much less risk than our roadways, when the opposite is true.
First you have no brakes in a boat. Next is when you lose your propulsion (turning prop or water jet) you lose your steering. Would you drive a car knowing you could lose either of those abilities at any time on our roads today? Never! But we do it every time we operate a boat.
In Louisiana more than 40 percent of fatal boating accidents involve alcohol use by the boat operator or passengers. The U.S. Coast Guard has released its 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics Report, revealing that there were 613 boating fatalities nationwide in 2019. There were 20 boating fatalities in Louisiana for 2019.
The need for thinking about our safety on the water is immense. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun, be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!