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Protecting Paradise
Celebrate summer with safe boating
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Photo courtesy FWC
These models show off different styles of personal flotation devices that can be purchased at local sporting goods stores with prices starting at around $60.
Thousands of boaters will take to Florida’s beautiful waterways this weekend for Memorial Day. Nothing says the start of summer better than a sunny day and a boat ride with family and friends.

To enjoy your day to the fullest, remember to be careful. Safe boating is in your hands!

Each year, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers respond to far too many tragic boating accidents. Unfortunately, they have been to 236 accidents so far this year, including 11 fatalities.

Earlier this month, two officers were called to an accident near Brooks Bridge in Fort Walton Beach. Two vessels collided, causing one of them to capsize, leaving three people stranded in the water. Fortunately, the people only suffered minor injuries and were able to swim to shore. Some are not that lucky. Out of last year’s 62 boating fatalities, 38 were due to drowning.

There are some basic things you can do to keep yourself safe and have a fun day on the water. First and foremost is to pay attention! Boat operators need to keep an eye on their surroundings, including weather, waves, wildlife and objects like waterway markers, docks and other boats.

The FWC reports that boat operators failing to pay attention remains the leading cause for boating accidents. FWC officers patrol our waterways to keep all boaters safe by checking that they have the appropriate gear and are operating safely. Ensure your encounters with FWC officers are positive ones by planning ahead and paying attention on the water.

To get ready for this weekend and learn more about safe boating, visit MyFWC­.com/­Boati­ng. You can even search there for the Florida Boat Ramp Finder to help you find a great place to launch your boat!

Protecting Paradise provides a glimpse into the world of an FWC officer. Finding lost hikers, checking boaters for safety gear and teaching children about fishing and hunting are just some of the contributions they make. This column is written by Katie Purcell, Division of Law Enforcement community relations coordinator.
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