AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After thousands of patrol hours and interactions with boaters, Texas Parks and Wildlife released its statewide summary for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
From June 30 through July 4, game wardens issued 1,854 citations, and issued 1,610 warnings, the report revealed.
TPWD reported three boating related fatalities, including a 25-year-old man who died while canoeing in Devils River, near Del Rio. Additionally, the bodies of a couple who had gone missing at Lake Livingston were found shortly after “their unoccupied boat washed ashore.”
The report also indicated seven non-boating related drownings across the state.
“The important thing for people to remember is that safety is paramount when you’re out there on the water,” TWPD boating law administrator Cody Jones said. “You enjoy your time out there, but wearing a life jacket is the most simple thing you can do to and it really can save your life.”
“Of the people that drowned, none of them were wearing their life jacket,” he added. “Had they been wearing their life jacket, likely they would have been here with us today.”
Game wardens logged nearly 13,000 patrol hours, making contact with 60,673 boaters on 17,845 vessels, officials said.
“I appreciate the hard work and dedication of our game wardens who work every day to protect our citizens and our natural resources,” said Col. Craig Hunter, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Director, in a statement. “We also realize this is a difficult time for families and friends who have lost loved ones and TPWD would like to extend our deepest sympathies to those affected by the tragedies.”
The report showed wardens made 55 Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) arrests and nine Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) arrests.
“[The BWI arrest numbers] are staggering statistics when you think that alcohol is the leading cause of fatalities on our waters nationwide and in the State of Texas,” Jones explained. One weekend’s statistics in that category account for about one-third of the 150 Texans arrested for BWI in the last year, Jones explained.
Jones mentioned a key priority for TPWD was addressing the number of folks spending time on paddle crafts, “and the number of fatalities happening on paddle crafts.” State law requires all vessels be equipped with a life jacket, regardless of whether it is motorized or not.
“From your stand up paddle board, to your kayak, to your canoe, unfortunately these bring a lot of fatalities along with them,” he added. “They’re roughly 40 percent of our fatality rate, which is a significant number of our boating public.”
For additional information about free online paddling courses through TPWD, click here.