They're not called the 100 deadly days of summer for nothing.
More people die on roads and waterways between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day than any other time of year, according to Lance Cpl. Bob Beres of the S.C. Highway Patrol.
Beres is among the law-enforcement and public-safety officials reminding people to be safe on the highways, waterways and elsewhere as the Memorial Day weekend kicks off the unofficial start of summer vacations.
Last year's celebrations were marred by the deaths of 9-year-old Tyreck Parker of Port Royal, who drowned at Hunting Island State Park, and William Alan Carson, 49, of St. Helena Island, who was swimming near the mouth of the Ashepoo River when he disappeared beneath the water and never reappeared. On Labor Day weekend last year, Joseph Scott, 31, of Allendale drowned while swimming off Hunting Island.
"The biggest thing we want people to realize, especially those watching young children, is that water can be a silent killer," said Chief Harry Rountree, president of the county's Fire Chief's Association. "People can slip below the surface without making a sound."
Beaufort County has more than 20 miles of beach, but only Hilton Head Island's have lifeguards.
But even on Hilton Head, officials from Shore Beach Service say parents should be vigilant since it's impossible for lifeguards to see everything.
"Memorial Day weekend is the first really big weekend of the summer, and we expect every beach to be extremely busy," said Mike Wagner, operations manager of Shore Beach Services, which provides lifeguards and beach patrols for Hilton Head. "Our patrols cover all the beaches, but with more people, the better chance something could happen."
Wagner said skies were expected to stay clear this weekend. He did not expect currents to be especially strong but urged parents to tell their children the name of the beach they are on or to note the closest mile marker, in case they are pulled down the beach by currents.
"Tell your kids to find a lifeguard right away if they can't find you," he said.
WATER SAFETY TIPS
BOATERS CAN GET INSPECTIONS
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division will conduct free, voluntary boat-safety inspections at some public landings this weekend.
The inspections will last a few minutes and will focus on required safety equipment and proper boat and motor registration, according to a DNR news release.
Along with Beaufort County Sheriff's Office water patrols, DNR officers will be scattered throughout the county to conduct random inspections at high-activity areas to make sure boaters have all the required safety equipment, Sgt. Michael Thomas said.