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FWC NOTICE: Officers will be vigilant during Gasparilla

Officers will be vigilant during Gasparilla

News Release

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Media contact: Investigator George Wells, 813-917-9222; Gary Morse, 863-648-3200

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers will team up with the U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies to keep waterways safe during the upcoming Gasparilla celebration in downtown Tampa Jan. 27-29. Officers will conduct boating safety inspections, targeting boaters operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs and providing educational information.

“Boating is an activity many Tampa Bay area families enjoy during this celebration, but it carries with it a serious responsibility to be safe,” said FWC Capt. Roger Young. “Carelessness, inattention and violating a navigation rule are the primary causes of boating accidents.”

Boating safety is a core responsibility for the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement. FWC officers increased vessel patrol hours statewide in 2011 and noted a decrease in the number of boating fatalities compared with previous years.

“We want 2012 to be an even safer year on the water,” Young said. “So we will be enhancing our efforts this weekend to ensure that everyone is boating as safely as possible.”

To avoid boating safety problems, the FWC and Coast Guard recommend boaters adhere to the following safety practices:

  • Always use a designated operator who has not been consuming alcohol or drugs.
  • Always wear a properly sized life jacket and have one for each person aboard.
  • Operate at a safe speed for the conditions present.
  • Maintain a proper lookout by constantly looking around the vessel.
  • Never overload a vessel.
  • Comply with all Coast Guard requirements for safety equipment.
  • Ensure navigational lights are operational before leaving the dock.
  • Extinguish decorative lights after dark when going to and from the parade area.

“Typically during Gasparilla there are a large number of boats within a confined space. To promote safety on the water, the Coast Guard recommends that only experienced boaters participate in the parade,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Sheryl Dickinson, captain of the port.

Boaters are encouraged to file a float plan with a friend or family member, and to have a working VHF radio on board. Each passenger should be told what to do in case an emergency arises, including how to use a VHF radio, and be shown the location of life-saving equipment and first-aid supplies.

“Understanding and applying these rules and making sure your boat is well-equipped and properly maintained will help ensure you and your family enjoy the Gasparilla events,” said George Wells, an FWC investigator.

More information on boating safety and boating safety courses is available at My FWC.com/Boating.