CLEVELAND - Rainy, stormy weather from spring into mid-summer kept many boaters off Lake Erie. Now, boating experts said it appears many of those boaters are trying to cram four months of boating into the final three weeks of summer before Labor Day.
A recent surge in boating accidents has authorities concerned and they're warning people about safety on the water.
Two boating accidents near the Lake Erie Islands this week involved boats crashing into break walls. "Number one rule, slow down take your time," said Tim Lieb with the U.S. Coast Guard in Cleveland. Lieb said boaters need to check their nautical charts and be familiar with the area because break walls can be eight feet high and only break wall entrances are lit. The rest of the rock wall is difficult to see at night.
"if you're not going slow and you hit a break wall, the boat gets damaged hitting faster. That's when people really get hurt," Lieb said.
He also recommended paying attention to the weather. The deadly boating accident near the islands this week happened during a thunderstorm which brought high waves.
John Wisse, from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft, said Friday morning's boat crash near Kelleys Island involved alcohol and that charges are expected.
Wisse added some studies show 70% of people killed in boat crashes involve alcohol or drugs. "Not all of them, but it's been a trend where alcohol is a factor," Lieb confirmed.
Friday afternoon the Coast Guard in Cleveland headed out to do boat inspections. They'll board boats to make sure all passengers have life jackets and they'll check for anyone drinking and boating.
The coast guard said it's a law to have life jackets on the boat, but it's wise to wear them. With the water temperature around 80 degrees, a life jacket could buy you enough time to be rescued.
"We always wear them at work, but even on my own personal boat if I'm moving, I'm wearing a lifejacket. Unfortunately, we've seen a lot of people who would be going home if they just put a life jacket on," explained Lieb.
Luckily, everyone involved in Friday morning's crash near Kelleys Island was treated and released from a nearby hospital.
Ten people have died in boating accidents on Lake Erie and throughout Ohio this year. A woman was killed in another boating accident earlier this week when that boat also hit a break wall during a thunderstorm near the islands.
ODNR said there is no evidence alcohol was a factor in that crash.
The investigation is ongoing.