COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) – According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the Fourth of July is one of the busiest days of the year on state waters.
The SCDNR is urging caution, and reminding residents about ways to stay safe on the water.
While this message of safety is paramount this week, it is applicable all summer long.
SCDNR says there are several things you should not leave the dock without: among them a life jacket, fire extinguisher and a whistle.
Boaters are also advised to pay attention to weather, and only operate a boat when sober.
To ensure boaters have everything they need, SCDNR conducted free inspections at public landings throughout the holiday weekend. They do similar checks ahead of Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Some boaters WIS spoke to on Independence Day said while it is a weekend to celebrate, safety is also top of mind.
“Being diligent with the area, knowing who’s around you, especially if you have children that’s around, paying attention to the small ones, and just paying attention to your surroundings,” Bianca Henderson, who was boating on Lake Murray, said.
When hitting the water after dark, boaters should test lights and always carry backup flashlights in case of emergency.
These messages hit home for Morgan Kiser and her family.
She lost her father Stanley, and her mother Shawn lost a leg, when officials say a drunk driver hit their boat on Lake Murray in September 2019.
Since that time, Kiser has been pushing for legislation that would require a boating safety course for everyone aged 16 and older.
“Since we’ve experienced it, we just wanted to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Kiser said. “We feel obligated to make sure that people understand, because I wish someone that would have done it before so that my dad would still be alive, my mom would still have her leg. It’s just a gut-wrenching experience.”
Kiser said she wants people to have a good time on the waterways, calling it “the gem” of South Carolina, but does not want to see another family endure what hers has.
“We’re not asking people to go out on the waterways planning for tragedy to happen, nobody wants that to happen,” she said. “But just make sure that you’re taking all the steps that you can take so that it doesn’t happen. And if it does happen by some horrible chance, be ready. Have everything on the boat that you need to save yourself.”
The family also operates a Facebook page that has amassed more than 7,500 members, which encourages conversations around boating and lake safety.
The bill that Kiser’s family has advocated for did not get past the state Senate this session.
According to Kiser, they have reassurances from Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, and Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, that it will be re-introduced next session.
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