Beaufort County law enforcement prepares on water and land for busy Memorial Day weekend

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.com / astice@islandpacket.comMay 23, 2012 



  • Where to get free boat inspections

    The S.C. Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division will offer free safety inspections at public boat landings over the Memorial Day weekend. Officers will check for required safety equipment and proper registration. Those not in compliance will not be ticketed. They can correct the problem before they launch, Sgt. Michael Paul Thomas said.

    The inspections will be:

  • 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Edgar Glenn Landing on Lemon Island on the Chechessee River.

  • 10 a.m. to noon Sunday at the C.C. Haigh Jr. Landing on Mackays Creek across U.S. 278 from the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.

  • To report boating violations such as reckless operation or an intoxicated driver, call the DNR toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-922-5431. For a copy of South Carolina's boating regulations, to find out about local boating safety courses or to obtain a free float-plan form, call the DNR Boating Safety Office at 1-800-277-4301.

Local law-enforcement officers are preparing to monitor Memorial Day weekend traffic by land and by sea, and motorists and boaters are urged to drive cautiously during one of the summer's busiest holidays.

"We are asking everyone to allow extra time getting to their destinations ... (and to) expect more traffic than usual around beaches and our coastline," said Cpl. Bob Beres, S.C. Highway Patrol spokesman.

Many Beaufort County law-enforcement agencies say this weekend will be business as usual for their patrol officers.

Bluffton, Beaufort and Port Royal police officials and a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office representative say their departments have no special enforcement plans for the holiday weekend.

Last year, seven people were killed on South Carolina roads during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety.

None of those fatalities occurred in Beaufort County, state records show.

ON THE WATER

With a flood of boaters and swimmers expected in area waters over the weekend, water-rescue groups and law enforcement will be patrolling for safety, speed and alcohol violations.

They also will offer free boat inspections at two locations in Beaufort County and will check for proper registration and safety equipment.

"We check that you have the appropriate number and size of life jackets for each person onboard, especially children's sizes," said Sgt. Michael Paul Thomas of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. "We make sure you have a sound device, such as a whistle or horn. If your gas tanks are fixed, built into the boat or strapped down, we'll make sure your fire extinguisher is fully charged."

Boats 16 feet or longer need to have a marine buoy or square cushion to throw in the water should a swimmer need rescuing, Thomas said.

Law enforcement officers won't be handing out tickets at the courtesy boat inspections to those who do not pass. However, they will look for violations throughout the weekend in other areas.

Swimmers need to be careful in the crowded waters, too, said Fripp Island Sea Rescue skipper Ted Michals.

"We've got a lot of sandbars off of Hunting and Fripp, and we see families take their children out there," Michals said. "If they're there when the tide comes in, it can be very dangerous."

In the Beaufort River, more than 150 swimmers are expected Saturday for the annual Beaufort River Swim. Beaufort Water Search & Rescue will provide an escort boat during the race and will be on the water all weekend, public-information officer Dick Jennings said.

Jennings advised those who plan to take a dip or a cruise this weekend to remember: "Water and alcohol don't mix."

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