Leaders promote water safety ahead of Memorial Day weekend

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OCONEE COUNTY, SC (WSPA)–Oconee County leaders said, the number of drownings they had last year was high. They are working hard to ensure everyone is kept alive while enjoying the water.

There were nine deaths at Oconee County lakes in 2019. Leaders said this year, things have been fairly quiet, but they are concerned emergencies could pick up.

“The biggest concern for Memorial Day is that people are coming out, they’re allowed to be out on their boats and back out on the lakes again,” said Scott Smith, Captain with Oconee County Emergency Services.

Oconee County Emergency Management personnel said the Jumping Off Rock at Lake Keowee, is always a problem. Crews said sometimes jumpers hit hard pieces of the rock that’s hidden underneath the surface.

They also see injuries and deaths at the sandbar. Smith said while crossing the sandbar, some lose their footing and drown.

“They underestimate the force of the river. They can slip and fall and get taken down river, or they fall into the hydraulics and get stuck in the water,” Smith said.

Tom Cheeseman has been living on the lake for years. He said his family witnessed a number of tragedies at the Fall Creek Landing at Lake Keowee.

“There’s always challenges on the lake, whether it be weather…other boaters, swimmers,” Cheeseman said. “I think they need to have a lot more caution because accidents happen all the time. People can easily get hurt jumping from that distance,” he added.

Smith said they typically see problems at Lake Jocassee too.

“One thing that we do concern ourselves with, is lakes like Lake Jocassee, if you don’t know what the weather is going to be, as that weather rolls in, it rolls in really quick on that lake…you can’t see it coming in,” Smith said. “By the time you see it, you’ve already got a problem on your hands,” Smith added.

Although the waterways can be fun, leaders said your safety and life is far more important.

“What we want people to remember, is to use common sense, use the safe practices that you already have and you’re supposed to have. Life jackets for everybody on boats,” Smith said.

Leaders said you should always check the weather forecast before heading out. They said by being aware of the weather conditions, it could prevent you from getting stuck or swept way.

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