Memorial Day Weekend Boating Safety Reminder: A Tragic Loss on Lake Greenwood

May 27, 2024

Memorial Day Weekend is often considered the official start of summer, with families flocking to lakes for boating and other water activities. Unfortunately, this past Saturday, a day meant for fun on Lake Greenwood turned tragic. Two tube riders were thrown from their flotation device, and while one individual was recovered, one remains unaccounted for and is presumed dead. Alarmingly, it is reported they were not wearing the required life vests.

In light of this heartbreaking incident, The Buzz wants to remind everyone of the boating laws enforced by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Adhering to these regulations not only helps avoid fines but can also prevent unnecessary tragedies and loss of life.

Specific Personal Flotation Device (PFD) Requirements

South Carolina law mandates the following with respect to Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs):

  • General Requirements: All vessels must have at least one Type I, II, III, or V PFD that is USCG–approved, wearable, and properly sized for each person on board or being towed. PFD sizing is based on body weight and chest size.
  • Children’s Safety: Children under 12 years of age must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD while on board a vessel less than 16 feet long. The PFD must be fastened and correctly sized for the child.
  • Throwable Devices: Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must carry one USCG–approved throwable Type IV device on board.
  • Substitution of PFDs: One Type V PFD may substitute any other type if specifically approved by the USCG for the activity at hand. However, Type V PFDs may not be used for children weighing less than 90 lbs.
  • Personal Watercraft (PWC): Each person riding on a PWC must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD.
  • Towed Individuals: Anyone being towed behind a vessel must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD.
  • Condition and Accessibility: All PFDs must be in good, serviceable condition and readily accessible.
  • Paddleboards: In specific situations, paddleboards must carry a USCG–approved PFD for each person on board.

Boater’s Tip

USCG–approved PFD labels are being updated to use “wearable” and “throwable” designations. During the transition, some PFDs may still be labeled as Type I, II, III, IV, or V.

Boater Education Requirement

To promote safety, boaters born after July 1, 2007, must pass an approved boater education course before operating a boat, personal watercraft (jet ski), or a specialty propcraft powered by a motor of 10 hp or more.

This South Carolina boating handbook is also available in a free PDF version.

As we navigate the joys and challenges of summer boating, let’s commit to safety first. By following SCDNR regulations and ensuring that every passenger wears a PFD, we can help prevent future tragedies and ensure a fun and safe experience for everyone on the water.