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Authorities stress boating safety on lake
Recent deaths stir concern
John Martin drops a buoy in Lake Lanier during preparations for a training course Tuesday at Young Deer Park. Officials are urging safety on the lake this year. - photo by Jim Dean

The weather may not have cooperated, but the message was unwavering Tuesday afternoon on a wind-swept Lake Lanier.

“We’d love to have more people who are safe on the lake,” said Margaret Sherrod with the U.S. Power Squadron’s Atlanta affiliate.

The squadron joined with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for demonstrations of safe boat handling at Young Deer Park in northeastern Forsyth County. The event was a precursor to National Safe Boating Week, which runs May 19-26.

Sherrod wore a life jacket to show not only the importance of wearing one, but ensuring that it’s in good condition.

That’s a crucial message, said Ranger Lee Brown with the DNR.

“We’ve already had two people drown on the lake,” Brown said. “We want people to be safe … life jackets save lives. And it doesn’t work if you do not wear it.

“It’s like wearing a seat belt in a car. Seat belts save lives. Life jackets save lives.”

The event came just a few days after a 59-year-old Duluth man was killed and three other people injured in a boat wreck on Lanier.

The DNR is still trying to determine what happened in the collision, which occurred just after midnight Sunday near East Bank Park off Suwanee Dam Road in Gwinnett County.

On April 14, a father and his stepson drowned in the lake at Mountain View Park off of Browns Bridge Road in western Hall County.

The investigation revealed the teen was trying to swim across a cove when he became distressed. When the father came to his aid, both swimmers went under and did not resurface.

Last year, the DNR handled 43 boating incidents on Lanier that resulted in 25 injuries and seven deaths.

Statewide, that number increased to 109 boating incidents with 66 injuries and 11 fatalities.

“When folks hear about someone losing their life on the lake, it makes them more aware,” Brown said.

Despite the low turnout Tuesday, demonstrations were ongoing. Participants showed how to maneuver a boat around buoys, a trick made even more difficult by the strong winds.

The weather only reinforced the importance of knowing how to properly drive a boat, said Jim Jordan, commander of the Atlanta squadron.

“The wind affects driving and … you can lose control in the wake,” he said.

While the squadron offers practical boating skills for a cost, Tuesday’s event was designed to give some tips at no cost.

“If you just make people aware of boater safety, it would make a world of difference,” Jordan said.