LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. (KMIZ)
One person is dead today and two people died and one person was seriously injured at the Lake of the Ozarks this past weekend.
But first responders are only expecting the lake to be more active this coming Labor Day Weekend.
"We expect there again to probably have an increase in call volume just based on the significant increase in overall boaters," said Cpl. Kyle Green with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol's 2022 boating and drowning statistics, there were seven boat crashes and one drowning last Labor Day Weekend.
Deputy Chief with the Lake Ozark Fire Protection District, David Woodward, said this summer has seemed pretty normal in regard to lake activity and accidents. However, he said as tourism grows at the lake, they have started seeing more boat crashes spread out across the lake.
"We're seeing a lot more upstream accidents up in the Sunrise Beach or your Gravois fire districts," Woodward said.
He said one thing first responders are dealing with more and more is drunk boaters.
"This last weekend, any weekend, time and time and time again, we're seeing catastrophic, terrible, horrible accidents and the boat driver is intoxicated," Woodward said. "We've got to make a cultural shift there."
Along with driving under the influence, he said other common issues include people and children not wearing life jackets on or near the water, and people not knowing how to operate their boat.
"Everybody should go get that boaters license--regardless of if they're old enough to where they're not eligible for it or not--and really understand their boat, understand how to operate that boat, understand everything about that boat," Woodward said.
Green said boaters should also be patient on the boat ramp and understand how to safely get boats in and out of the water.
"Make sure that whoever is loading the boat and unloading the boat knows what they're doing, and that they're paying attention to what's going on around them," Green said.
Woodward said Lake Ozark Fire Protection will have standard staffing for Labor Day Weekend. He said they are beginning to rely and call on neighboring fire and ambulance districts when needed, and have shifted their training.
"Our training is getting more specific toward the water rescue end of things," Woodward said. "So, the guys, when they leave out of here on the trucks, they're prepared for those incidents more than in years past."
The Lake of the Ozarks Water Safety Council in a news release Monday reminded boaters to stay safety aware, calling Labor Day, "Summer's Final Big Weekend."
Safety advice includes being prepared with life jackets. The law requires accessible and fitting life jackets for each person in the boat and boats longer than 16 feet need a throwable flotation device. Children under the age of 7 must always wear a life jacket.
Operating a boat while under the influence also leads to many boating accidents. Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% can be charged with boating while intoxicated.
Other tips include knowing the rules of navigation on the water, such as if two boats cross, the boat on the right has the right-of-way. Run the blower before starting a boat to clear any fuel and use an engine cut-off lanyard for smaller boats.