NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The State of Tennessee has reached the same number of boating fatalities it saw in the entirety of 2021 with several months to go.

Over the weekend, three people died after their boat collided with a barge on the Tennessee River. Tennessee has now seen 22 boating fatalities, which was the same number the state had in 2021. In 2020, Tennessee saw 31 boating fatalities.

Lieutenant Eric Anderson works for Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and says even time doesn’t make responding to boating deaths any easier.

“Dealing with fatalities by far is the worst part of the job, but it’s an important job that we must do to help families have closure. Investigate the cause so we can prevent further incidents,” Lt. Anderson said.

TWRA officials say they’ve seen the most boater deaths between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays. Lt. Anderson said low visibility can create major challenges for boaters. The weekend boating fatality happened around 9 p.m. on Saturday.  

“At nighttime, it’s a completely different animal so to speak on the water because you don’t have headlights, you have navigation lights that indicate your position on the lake. You can use a light to pick out a buoy or to find debris, but generally speaking, you don’t run down the lake with headlights on,” Lt. Anderson said. 

Water patrol officials say they’ve seen plenty of unsafe boating practices over the summer, but if they could change one behavior, they would make sure all boaters were wearing a life jacket.  

“The one scenario that I was told is trying to put on the life jacket in the middle of an incident is akin to trying to put your seatbelt on in the middle of an accident. If you’re not wearing it, it’s not going to do you any good,” Lt. Anderson said. 

The TWRA said there’s still plenty of time left in the boating season, and they fear they will see more deaths, especially considering we still have a busy Labor Day weekend ahead of us. They hope boaters will be aware of these 22 fatalities and take measures to keep themselves safe on the water.  

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“We like to think each one of them were avoidable, so we want to do our best to throughout our patrols increase awareness so that we don’t have one more,” Anderson said.