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Rescue Squad Chief to boaters: Be careful

  • Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dan Brown/Gazette Necessary accessories on any boat trip should include a cell phone and life jackets.

With the summer boating season kicking into high gear with the Fourth of July weekend, Berkeley County Rescue Squad Chief Bill Salisbury is stressing the importance of boater safety and awareness when taking to the water.

“It’s important for people to understand now that summer’s here, there will be a lot of boating traffic out there,” he said. “It’s important for boaters to be aware and follow safety guidelines.”

Salisbury said a few moments in the marina could help avoid disaster on the water.

“Please file a float plan,” he said. “Let people know where you’re going and how long you plan to be gone.

“Check the weather. Out there on the lake bad weather can whip up pretty fast.”

Salisbury cited a recent rescue of three boaters whose craft had been hit by waves and took on water. He said their rapid emergency 911 call and keeping cell phones and life jackets in use during the ordeal helped avoid a possible tragedy.

“It’s important to be aware of changing conidtions on the lake,” he said.

Salisbury mentioned the June 1 rescue call where three young people spent more than eight hours in the water after their boat sank.

“Had they filed a float plan we could have located them much sooner,” Salisbury said. “The parents were convinced their kids were on the river and not on Lake Moultrie. A lot of time was wasted because Rescue Squad workers didn’t know where to look.”

Salisbury cited a similar incident involving three young people and a jet ski.

“We received a call that there were three young people in their early twenties out on a jet ski and it was taking on water and sinking,” he said, “But because they had their life jackets and cell phone, they were able to stay afloat and call 911.”

After the boaters were rescued they were asked if any family members would have noticed their absence otherwise.

“They replied that their parents didn’t even know they were taking the jet ski out on the lake and that could have been a disaster,” Salisbury said. “Fortunately, Berkeley County Rescue Squad and the Lake Moultrie Fire Department were able to locate them and bring them back to safety.”

While Lake Moultrie is a relatively shallow lake, it averages depths of more than 30 feet, with a deepest point of 74 feet at the powerhouse.

In the event of severe weather, waves on the lake can grow larger than eight feet.

Salisbury advised boaters to always wear life jackets and be mindful of rapidly changing weather conditions.

“Watch the weather and if bad weather flares up, don’t try to go back to your landing where you put in,” he said. “Find the nearest landing, the nearest piece of dry land, and go there. Wait for the storm to pass then try to return to your vehicle.

“The unique feature about this lake with it being so shallow, when the lake was formed they came in and cut the trees in half. There are stumps all over that lake and some lie just beneath the surface. You have to be careful where you take your boat.”

Formed in 1966, the Berkeley County Rescue Squad is a 30-member all volunteer organization that answers on average of two rescue calls per week.

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