Wake County sheriff hopes jet skis provide quicker, better access for lake rescues

Wake County News

RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) – Wake County deputies are trying to cut down on extended response times on Falls and Harris lakes as well as access dangerous areas unreachable by larger boats.

This comes after two drownings so far this year on Falls Lake and three in 2020.

Wake County Capt. George Barnes said the pandemic brought more boaters than ever to Wake County lakes.

“A lot more people are coming to the lakes since they couldn’t travel out of town, most of them didn’t want to,” Barnes said. “They were just inundating the parks and the lake areas by the tens of thousands.”

Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said previous response times could vary when a call comes from the lake.

“It was anywhere in the neighborhood of 35-45 minutes, sometimes up to an hour depending on where the officers or the members of the boat team were when the calls came in,” Baker said.

They are response times he says that need to be cut down.

But with more than 180 miles of shoreline at Falls Lake, many narrow or shallow coves that rescue boats can’t reach present challenges for first responders.

“When people get down in that park and come down here to the water and they get in duress, we don’t have a way to quickly respond to assist them up in the woods or if they’re actually down in the water,” Barnes said.

The Wake County Sheriff’s Office is spending more than $30,500 to buy two new jet skis that would reach small areas with frequent calls.

“It’s going to help us meet that need to get into those areas where this boat won’t get,” Baker said.

He hopes repositioning boats closer to landings rather than at dry docks off-site and adding the new jet skis will help bring the lake response times down.

“Our prayer and our hope is to rescue instead of having to recover,” Baker said.

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