Nebraska Game and Parks Monitoring Alcohol in Boats Over Holiday

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- According to Nebraska Game and Parks alcohol is the leading factor in boating deaths. So officials are urging people to stay safe this holiday weekend.

"Swimming is fun, it is. Great way to relax, I like that," said Ryan Flaherty of Colorado Springs, CO.

Flaherty and his family stopped at Mormon Island Thursday on their way home to cool off because it was almost empty. That means he and other swimmers were safe from boats, but that's not the case everywhere.

Brock Burney, the Groundskeeper and Supervisors at Mormon Island in Grand Island said, "I was out at Johnson Lake last week on the 27th, there was 49 citations written and 71 warnings given for different boaters under influence and just safety issues."

Last week Game and Park's Law Enforcement Division took part in a training to spot intoxicated boaters and now they're putting it to work on Nebraska lakes. That division will be out this holiday weekend to prevent problems on the top annual weekend for boating accidents.

Burney said, "I feel that the staff, especially law enforcement, is out helping prevent those things and I know we have some good young people coming up that are out in those areas that I know are going to do a great job."

Game and Parks said boating while intoxicated is as dangerous as driving under the influence.

"When you're intoxicated, you can't react as fast and when you're on a boat or if you're jet skiing or whatever and when you've got a packed lake you can see how it would be tragedy in a hurry," said Burney. "I would just ask people to not drink on beaches, drink with your family at your camp site, stay off the roads, don't walk. Have fun on the lake but keep dry."

People in the water at Mormon Island were happy to know they can enjoy themselves safely with authorities on the watch.

Grand Island resident Harvey Evans said, "I think it's a great idea because alcohol does impair everything! Walking, let alone operating a vehicle as a boat, anything."

This is such a serious situation Evans said if he knew there was someone boating under the influence he wouldn't let his kids anywhere near the water.

He said, "I'd be very nervous. My kids know how I feel about alcohol. It's very controlling."

People operating boats must remain under .08 blood alcohol level, and even if you're not driving officials say you still need to stay alert on the water.

Despite the extra enforcement Game and Parks want Nebraskans to know they're not out to ruin any Fourth of July celebrations.

"We don't want to bother people but we want people to understand that we're here if they need us," Burney said.