Don’t make waves when it comes to water safety, officials urge

Sean I. Mills
Staff writer
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Posted 5/23/19

VILLAGE OF SYLVAN BEACH — Supervised swimming at Sylvan Beach will not be open for Memorial Day because of a lack of lifeguards, according to village officials. “If there’s anybody that you …

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Don’t make waves when it comes to water safety, officials urge

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VILLAGE OF SYLVAN BEACH — Supervised swimming at Sylvan Beach will not be open for Memorial Day because of a lack of lifeguards, according to village officials.

“If there’s anybody that you know of, send them our way, because we could use the help,” said Village Mayor Greg Horan on Wednesday, as part of the sheriff’s annual boater and beach safety announcement.

“Safety is the primary issue on the beach,” Horan agreed. “Come to Sylvan Beach and enjoy the day.”

Along with the need for more life guards, village, county and state officials also stressed the importance of safety and following the law over Memorial Day Weekend and for the rest of the summer.

“We want to make sure that everyone is safe and has a good time,” said Sheriff Robert M. Maciol.

“At the end of the day, we want to keep everyone safe. We want everyone to have a good, safe summer.”

Maciol reminded boaters of the department’s zero tolerance policy on boating while intoxicated. The Sheriff’s Marine Patrol has five boats and three jet skis that patrol all major lakes and waterways throughout the county over the summer. Deputies are patrolling on Oneida Lake every day of the summer, weather permitting, and they visit Delta Lake, White Lake, Hinckley Lake, Kayuta Lake, the Barge Canal and the Mohawk River on weekends. Officials stressed the importance of life jackets when having fun on Oneida Lake. According to state law, every boat must have an equal number of life jackets for every person on board, as well as at least one throwable life-saver. Any person under the age of 12 also needs to be wearing a life jacket at all times when on a vessel less than 65-feet in length.

Some of their boats are equipped with both radar and infrared cameras when rescues in the dead of night, officials stated.

The Marine Patrol has the power to terminate any boating expedition, and they said they will do so if they come across a vessel without the proper number of life jackets. Marine Patrol boats are equipped with loaner life jackets they will hand out when they either escort the offending boat back to shore or order them to return to port. The loaner life jackets can then be dropped off at any local marina.

Maciol also discussed on Wednesday the importance of boaters and beach-goers looking out for one another.

“Just as important out on the water as if you’re on land, if you see something suspicious, if you see someone in distress, you have an obligation to report things to police,” Maciol stated.

“We cannot be everywhere. If you see something — and I cannot stress this enough — please say something.”

Sylvan Beach Fire Chief Rick Johnson also asked that boaters should familiarize themselves with their surroundings when on the lake so that they can provide better information if they need to call 9-1-1. He said boaters tend to just note the most popular, visible landmarks on the shore when calling for help, which does not narrow down their location on the water for rescuers.

Likewise, if you call 9-1-1 because you see another boat in trouble, Johnson asked that you get more creative with your description.

“We ask for a better description than a white boat, because everybody’s boat is white,” Johnson noted.

The Sylvan Beach Fire Department has seven watercraft, including one boat that is always on the water and three inflatables for rapid deployment. Johnson said his volunteers have responded to eight calls for help on the lake so far this year, which is higher than past years. He said his department responds to more water rescues than house fires.

Johnson advised boaters to make sure they have a charged cell phone, working radio, and flare guns on board, as well as a full tank of gasoline.

“People go out for a long ride and they don’t pay attention to how much gas they have,” Johnson stated.

“And, unfortunately, we have to go out and bring them back to shore. We expect them to check their gas levels.”

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