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Law enforcement patrolling Wisconsin waterways for the holiday weekend

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 4:03 PM CDT
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FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WBAY) - Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer and the boating season. Law enforcement has a plea in an effort to keep everyone on the water safe this holiday weekend -- and beyond.

Cloudy skies and cooler temperatures might not have many people thinking about boating, but Sgt. Ryan Zitlow with the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s office boat patrol knows a change in the forecast will bring boaters out this holiday weekend.

According to Sgt. Zitlow, “Saturday is supposed to be a nice day, Sunday is supposed to be nice, Monday nice so if people are out there, enjoy it -- definitely number one -- and number two, be safe.”

Boater safety will be the top priority for the sheriff’s office boat patrol as well as the DNR. The two agencies, along with others across the state, plan to have crews out monitoring Wisconsin waterways this weekend in an effort to avoid a tragedy.

“So far, this year, prior to Memorial Day weekend to date, we’ve had six boating fatalities in the State of Wisconsin, 22 last year. That is crazy, this is supposed to be fun yet people are still finding themselves in harm’s way,” says Lt. Darren Kuhn, the DNR boating law administrator.

According to the DNR, 80% of all boating fatalities are drownings, stressing the importance of personal flotation devices, or PFDs. Sgt. Zitlow adds, “Everyone on a vessel needs to have a a PFD, at least accessible. The children 13 and under do need to wear that at all times when the boat is underway.”

Alcohol is another concern. Much like having a sober driver, a sober captain is key to everyone’s safety. Lt. Kuhn says, “Alcohol affects your fine motor skills, it affects your decision-making, and on the water it’s amplified with the waves and the sun and all of the environmental factors beating down on you.”

The boat patrols people may see out this weekend and throughout the summer aren’t meant to curb fun. Instead, their purpose is to make sure people are enjoying the water safely.

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