Originally created 09/15/03

States see rise in boating deaths



Georgia has had 11 boating-related fatalities this year, the highest number since 1999, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

South Carolina has investigated 26 boat-related deaths this year, the highest number since 1998, when 28 people died.

"In 1999, we had 18 in Georgia, so this year - just so far - is the highest since then," said Melissa Cummings, a public affairs specialist for DNR's Wildlife Resources Division.

Although it is unclear why 2003 has a yielded more boating deaths, one factor could be that lakes and rivers were full this year after three years of drought.

During those drought years, 2000-02, there were 10, nine and five boating fatalities, respectively, in Georgia, Ms. Cummings said. It is possible that full reservoirs attracted more visitors.

In South Carolina, where 14 people died in boating accidents last year, authorities are similarly perplexed about the rise in accidents.

"This year has been a really bad year," said South Carolina Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mike Willis. "There is no common denominator there that we can point to and say, 'This is why this is happening."'

Although South Carolina's death toll is higher than in recent years, it is lower than it was before the state passed a boat safety reform act in 1999, Mr. Willis said. About 30-35 people died annually before the act was passed. The law increased penalties for boat-related crimes, such as boating under the influence of alcohol.

The most recent boating fatality in the Augusta area occurred July 27, when 23-year-old William Greene drowned. He and three companions were thrown into the Savannah River after their boat struck a piling.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.