On July 3, 2022, 41-year-old Robert Berlingeri drowned in Canyon Lake near Boat Ramp #1 after falling off a boat with his two-year-old child.
Neither were wearing personal floating devices (PFDs).
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) wants to prevent tragedies like these this Fourth of July holiday by emphasizing boating safety and warning boaters not to drink.
“If you’re operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you’re putting people at risk,” said Cody Jones, TPWD’s assistant commander for Marine Enforcement. “Sadly, we see it time and time again — holiday celebrations that end in accidents or fatalities caused by unsafe boating practices.”
Game wardens will heavily patrol Canyon Lake this weekend, looking for inebriated boat captains as part of Operation Dry Water, a July 1-3 national awareness-and-enforcement campaign aimed at reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related incidents and fatalities on the water.
“We encourage all boaters to be vigilant, prioritize their safety, and stay sober while enjoying their time on the water,” said National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) Chair Susan Stocker.
TPWD, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County (WORD), Colin’s Hope (drowning prevention) and 4W’s Outdoors will promote boating safety with outreach booths and prizes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Canyon Park Boat Ramp 18, Canyon Park Rd., and Canyon Lake Marina, 280 Marina.
TPWD Boater Education Manager Kimberly Sorenson reminds anyone out or around Canyon Lake this weekend to wear life jackets, avoid alcohol, check weather reports and take a boater education course, which is required for anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993.
The rules for boating under the influence (BUI) are the same as those for drivers.
Anyone who is operating a watercraft and has an alcohol level of .08% or higher is considered impaired.
First-time offenders could be fined up to $2,00 or sentenced to 180 days in jail. A second conviction carries a fine of up to $4,000 and/or jail time of up to one year. A third conviction carries a fine of up to $10,000 and/or jail time of two to 10 years.
Other water-safety violations include:
- Failure to wear a PFD on personal watercraft
- A lanyard or cut-off switch not attached to an operator when operating above headway speed
- No flame arrestor of backfire trap
- Insufficient number of PFDs
- Reckless operation and allowing passengers to ride on the bow, gunwale or transom of the boat
- PFDs not easily accessible
- Children under 13 not wearing PFDs on boats less than 26 feet while underway including sailboats and paddle craft
- Improper lights on the vessel
- No/improper mirror or no observer 13 years of age or older
- No whistle or other sound-producing device
- No/improper fire extinguisher
- Improper ventilation equipment
- No exhaust water manifold/muffler
- Giving permission to operate a vessel without the required equipment
- No type IV PFD
- Improper type/size of PFD
- Any other water-safety equipment violation.
In 2022, TPWD game wardens issued 1,560 citations and 1,976 warnings for various boating-safety law violations. Some 49 people were arrested for boating while intoxicated (BWI) and eight others were charged for driving while intoxicated (DWI).
Another 23 people were arrested for various other charges.