Smith Mountain Lake officials offer safety tips ahead of Memorial Day weekend

Advice comes after boat crash Tuesday night

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE, Va. - Charges are pending after two boats crashed on Smith Mountain Lake, sending a fisherman to a hospital.

Wildlife officials say three adults and three children were on a motorboat near the Blackwater River on Tuesday night when they went around a turn, hitting a fishing boat.

With Memorial Day around the corner, safety experts say this crash is a reminder for boaters to be responsible out on the water.

Smith Mountain Lake America's Boating Club commander Wheeler Baker says tragedies can be prevented.

"Things that influence a lot of accidents are people not paying attention," said Baker. 

The group promotes boating safety, teaches courses and offers equipment checks.

There's no speed limit on the lake, so Baker says drivers need to give other boats, kayaks, paddleboards and swimmers a wide berth and slow down.

"You should go as fast as you can to prevent a collision and injuring someone else," said Baker. 

Scruggs Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad 1st Lt. Rich Faga says to be careful around blind curves and watch your wake.

"(The wake can) knock over another boater or knock over somebody that's in a canoe or a kayak. You can disrupt somebody who's in a sailboat," said Scruggs. 

Drivers should never drink and be aware of boater fatigue.

"You got the sun and the wind, and the boat's bouncing around," said Baker. "Maybe you're even a little stressed because you're nervous driving your boat."

Make sure everyone wears Coast Guard-approved life jackets that fit properly.

Wheeler wants everyone to soak up the sun and enjoy summer on the lake -- just be responsible and use common sense.

"Just be situationally aware, watch the alcohol content and watch your speed, and you'll go home with all your parts," said Baker. "Smith Mountain Lake's a fun place to boat, and you just gotta be aware of what's going on."

Anyone who operates a boat in Virginia needs to have a safety certification first. There are free classes offered locally, or you can pay to take one online.

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