Father advocates boating safety one year after daughter's death
17-year-old Gabby Ayers died one year ago Sunday in a jetski accident
Mark Ayers says it only took a second for a boat to kill his daughter Gabby at Smith Mountain Lake in 2016. This year, on the one-year anniversary of her death, he wanted to make sure that everyone visiting the lake for the holiday weekend knows how to stay safe on the water.
"They were sitting just having a good time, probably looking at this mountains over here and... the boat's riding and just clipped right into them," Ayers said. "No man or woman should ever have to hear that your 17 year old daughter has just been killed in a jet ski accident."
Ayers says the operator of that boat wasn't paying attention. And with thousands more on the lake this weekend, he's asking others to be more careful.
"People have a tendency to relax and forget how dangerous operating a boat. It's the same as operating a car. You're operating a vehicle that can weigh thousands of pounds and can kill somebody," said Tom Lovegrove, with the Smith Mountain Rescue Squad.
So far, the Smith Mountain Rescue Squad says it has already responded to two major accidents on the lake just this weekend.
For the Fourth of July on Tuesday, the Rescue Squad says thousands of boats will be taking to the lake to see the fireworks display.
Lovegrove says during that event, it's important to remember to take it slow so your boat doesn't put up any wake, and to remember to always be aware of your surroundings so that everyone makes it home safely.
Meanwhile, Ayers says safety is as simple as wearing a life jacket, being aware of your surroundings, and not drinking while boating.
"This is not a terrible place for me, this is a place of hope for others. So absolutely her legacy would be for people to have fun, but to do it safely," said Ayers.
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