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TWRA urges safety after three accidents, two deaths on Cherokee Lake

Jeff Bobo • May 5, 2020 at 8:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is reminding all boaters to remember to wear their life jackets in light of two boating accidents this weekend in Hawkins County involving five people who weren’t wearing a personal flotation device.

Saturday afternoon, 71-year-old Edward McMillan of Gate City was killed when the boat he was riding in overturned near the Quarryville Boat Ramp in Mooresburg. A juvenile passenger survived.

On Sunday evening, Hawkins County rescuers responded to a boating accident, this time involving three passengers of an overturned boat on the Holston River near Rogersville.

According to a Hawkins County Rescue Squad report, all three passengers survived without injury, despite not wearing life jackets.

There was also a non-boating related drowning on Cherokee Lake on Sunday evening in Bean Station. Police said two brothers were swimming at the Olen Marshal Lake Access when one went under and never resurfaced.

Search crews looked for the victim without success on Sunday until about 8:30 p.m.

Monday morning, rescuers located the body of Victor Baltzor Perez, 20, of Morristown.

TWRA spokesman Matthew Cameron told the Times News on Monday that after nearly two months of quarantine during the COVID-19 crisis the lakes will likely be crowded, which means safety is an even greater priority.

Cameron said that if you're heading to the waterways for some much-needed outdoors enjoyment, keep in mind the following:

* Properly wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) of the correct size and in good condition is undoubtedly the best way to stay safe while swimming or boating. “They float, you don’t,” Cameron said.

* PFDs are required for children ages 12 and under while underway, for anyone operating a personal watercraft, or for anyone being towed on an inner tube, skis, wakeboard or similar device.

* Avoid using drugs or alcohol while boating. Designate a sober operator with adequate boat operation experience.

* Keep a proper lookout for other boats and hazards. As lakes increase, limbs, trees and other debris get washed out, causing hazards. Also keep in mind that there are no traffic lanes and boats may be traveling in any direction.

* Keep passengers seated below the gunwale and never sit on seat backs, sun decks transforms or the bow.

* Do not overload the boat and stay within the Coast Guard maximum capacity.

* Take a boating education class — which is required for boat operators born after January 1, 1989. There is a link with boating class information in the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net

* File a float plan. Always tell someone where you’re going boating, what kind of boat you’re in, and when you plan to return.

* Put your cellphone in a waterproof case or sealed inside a ziplock type of bag in case you need to call for help.

* Adhere to CDC (Centers for Disease Control) social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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