Updated: May 28, 2021 08:06 PM
Created: May 28, 2021 07:31 PM
Memorial Day weekend not only means travel, but for many, it also means getting the boat onto the lake for the first time since last summer.
Sheriff Dave Hutchinson and his deputies are out patrolling the Lake Minnetonka waters ahead of the holiday weekend. It's the "unofficial" start to summer – and they're trying to keep it from becoming a deadly one.
"We're going to be out here, as strong as we were last year, and the year before," Hutchinson said.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, there were 49 non-boating drownings in Minnesota in 2020. They say it's the highest number the state has seen in a decade.
"Watch your kids. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under five. Also in 70% of those cases, a parent was nearby when it occurred. So avoid distractions, like using smartphones or talking to other adults, and supervise your kids, even when lifeguards are present," Hennepin County Water Patrol Lt. Bill Gottwaldt.
Meanwhile, the number of fatal boating accidents last year also reached a 5-year high. Sixteen people were killed in boating-related crashes in 2020.
"But last year it could have been a contributing factor of new boaters," Hutchinson said. "Because of COVID, people bought boats and watercrafts because there's nothing else to do last summer," Hutchinson said.
He added, "I think anytime you're boating don't drink."
Hutchinson recommends anyone seek out boating training if they're new, and to always wear a life jacket.
"Come stop by here and get some tips. We're here because the taxpayers and the public pay us to be, and we want to educate. And if we have zero deaths and zero boat accidents on this water, it's a good summer," Hutchinson said.
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