A woman is facing felony charges related to driving under the influence of alcohol after South Carolina law enforcement officials determined she was drunk while operating a small boat that capsized on Lake Hartwell in Anderson County, leading to the deaths of two young children who had been onboard. A 9-year-old succumbed to cardiac arrest after being pulled from the water, and a 5-month-old drowned.
The fatal boating accident occurred on the night of August 31, 2014. Reports indicate that 16 people were in the 19-foot inboard motor craft and that one of the children who lost their life was not wearing a life jacket. Overloading the boat and failing to provide adequate safety equipment may have contributed to the accident, but the DUI charges were the only one filed in the hours after the wreck.
South Carolina, like most states and the federal government, treats drinking and boating the same way as drinking and driving -- and with good reason. The legal limit for the blood alcohol content of a person operating a watercraft is .08. Exceeding that can make controlling a boat, personal watercraft or skiff as difficult as steering a car or truck. And, as the deadly accident on Lake Hartwell shows, the results of a wreck on the water can be as tragic as a crash on the road.
As a Carolina personal injury and wrongful death attorney who lives near the water, and having helped victims of boating accidents, I well know that safety must be a primary concern for every boat operator. Drinking too much makes it impossible for a person to take all proper precautions to protect their and others' health and lives.