Drownings on the Rise on Tennessee Lakes

By: Jim Freeman
By: Jim Freeman

Norris Lake, Campbell County (WVLT) - Drownings are up on Tennessee lakes and the busiest time for water recreation is just beginning.

TVA reports there have been five drownings in the past five weeks; this does not include other drowning reports on area lakes and rivers.

TWRA reports boating fatalities separately.

So why so many drownings?

Volunteer TV’s Jim Freeman caught up with TVA officers today to ask that question.

This sounds really simple, and it is, but it pretty much comes down to wearing a life jacket.

"When we start hearing about the drownings going up, we think about the people not wearing life jackets,” says TVA Officer Tony Cody.

Since Memorial Day, drownings on TVA Lakes have doubled from five to ten. That's not counting non-TVA lakes.

Tennessee has lost about a third more people to drowning so far this year than Kentucky.

TVA Lakes are down on average 12-feet. Aside from that, not much else has changed with the lakes. However, there are more people, more boats, and more speed. Increasing in number, are personal watercraft.

"These are pretty dangerous,” says personal watercraft rider Ann Teeters. “I think especially the fact that really young people ride them often and they don't know what they're doing."

Ann says you have to watch out for the boats. "This is like a motorcycle. People don't really see you like they should."

Drownings may be running high, but boating accidents are down compared to last year at this time. That includes fewer injuries and fatalities. But BUI, boating under the influence, is way up.

"If you've been drinking, wear a life jacket. If you're not a strong swimmer, wear a life jacket,” says Officer Cody.

Fish don't swim alone. Humans shouldn't either.

"We always go out together. And we always have what we need with us,” says Norris Lake regular Cathy Roland.

"I think you need to know your limitations on the lake,” adds boater Bret Roland.

Chances of losing your life to the lake are slim when you wear a life jacket.

"If you have a life jacket on, more than likely it will save your life,” Officer Cody says.

Gil Francis with the TVA says there've been 88 drownings on TVA lakes since 2002.

Statistics show that two-thirds of all boating accidents and half of all boating fatalities are alcohol related.

Tennessee state law requires anyone age 12 and under must wear a life jacket.


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