Law enforcement step up patrols during busy holiday weekend

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Drownings are a top cause of death in North Carolina.

Most of these incidents are accidental, but still leave hundreds of families grieving each year, including some families in the Triangle.

Signs are posted all over Falls Lake to remind people about water safety.

But people told CBS 17 that not everybody listens to the rules.

“I think we all know what we should be doing, it’s just doing those things. One mess can turn into something that nobody is prepared for,” said Seth Thorpe.

That is why he said he always prepares before heading out on his boat with his family, like he was doing on Monday when he spoke with CBS 17 crews.

“[When] people are excited, they get a little bit lax of what they should be doing,” he said.

On Saturday, Wake County Sheriff’s Deputies said 28-year-old Kenneth Harris was not swimming within the safe-swim yellow perimeter at Falls Lake and was not wearing a life jacket.

His friends told investigators he went underneath the water and never resurfaced.

Recovery teams found his body on Sunday.

“You hate to think about somebody who was out trying to have a good time at the lake and have something tragic like this happen. It’s sad,” said James Boone, who was out boating on Labor Day.

Tragic, but preventable.

“If you’re going in those waters and you’re not a strong swimmer, make sure you put on a flotation device or something that’s going to keep you from going under,” said Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker.

There have been four drownings at Falls Lake so far this year.

There was another close call over the holiday weekend on the Neuse River.

A woman tried to get her two younger siblings from going too deep into the river but ended up having to be pulled from the water herself.

In 2019, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 106 people died in an accidental drowning.

It’s something officials are concerned about, especially as public nature spots become more populated.

“With the pandemic and people staying home and staying closer to natural parks and recreation areas,” added Baker. “The attendance and the crowd are up probably 100-200 percent.”

The increase in the number of visitors is why Wake County Sheriff’s Office and North Carolina Wildlife officers are amping up their patrols both on land and on water, especially during holidays.

“[Labor Day] is a very busy weekend for us,” said Sgt. Eric Blalock with the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission. “We’re looking for reasons to be able to stop a boat and check a boat. We’re looking for safety equipment once we stop a boat.”

They want to make sure everyone can have fun and stay safe.

“If you don’t see patrols, you may be apt to maybe not have what you need on your boat,” added Boone. “If you see any patrols out here, you know you have the potential to be stopped.”

The safety equipment officers will be checking, includes a life jacket for every passenger onboard the boat.

Kids under the age of 13 are required to always wear a life vest.

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