Between collisions, drownings, boat fires and boating under the influence arrests, Independence Day weekend was anything but a vacation for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers.
“It’s a good thing that TWRA officers hope for the best and prepare for the worst as they worked tirelessly around the clock responding to more than a dozen serious boating incidents on Fort Loudoun, Norris and Melton Hill Lakes alone,” Matthew Cameron of TWRA said.
Cameron said from Thursday, June 30, through Monday, July 4, officers in East Tennessee investigated or assisted with two fatalities, a hit-and-run jet-ski incident, three boat fires, multiple sinking boats, multiple boat collisions and a rescue on Chilhowee Mountain. TWRA officers arrested seven operators for BUI.
He said a 19-year-old man died after jumping from the top of a houseboat near Sequoyah Marina. He said witnesses reported he was attempting to jump over another boat and struck that boat before disappearing into 30 feet of water. A TWRA officer used side-scan sonar to locate the man and a dive team recovered his body within 40 minutes.
At 1:30 a.m., Monday morning, Jereme Peltier, age 34, from Knoxville, died after falling into Fort Loudoun Lake from one of several boats that were rafted together in the Prater Flats area. Witnesses said they heard a splash and began checking boats in an attempt to account for everyone. After a 9-1-1 call, divers from the Blount County Rescue Squad located the body.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Peltier’s 12-year-old son was the only person with him and the child’s next of kin was out of state. TWRA offers prayers and condolences for the young man,” Cameron said.
Cameron said boaters should wear lifejackets to stay safe.
“If I’m counting properly, we’ve had 10 fatal boating accidents this year and in each incident, the victim drowned. Properly worn lifejackets would have very likely made a difference in those accidents,” he said.
Cameron said people who would not drink and drive a vehicle might drink, despite the danger, while operating boat.
However, he said such behavior is dangerous in addition to being illegal.
“Alcohol affects you worse on the water than on the land,” he said. He said boaters under the influence can sometimes fail to tell the difference between water and land.