The Coast Guard is cautioning the public to exercise safe boating practices this holiday season as changing weather presents hazards on the Gulf Coast and inland rivers.
Boaters and water enthusiasts are advised to increase their awareness of the dangers of hypothermia as freezing weather is forecast on the northern parts of the Mississippi, Ohio and Illinois rivers.
Along the Gulf Coast, weather conditions remain mild, on average; however, the incidence of sinking vessels and collisions involving injuries or fatalities can occur at any time, regardless of calm conditions on the water, according to a Coast Guard statement.
The Coast Guard said that since Oct. 1 it has responded to 310 search-and-rescue cases, saved 96 lives and assisted 406 persons in distress; however, 22 lives were lost.
Two women and one man died Dec. 6 after their boat reportedly struck a bridge piling and capsized in Choctawhatchee Bay, Fla. The submerged boat was located in 28 feet of water near the Mid Bay Bridge. The Coast Guard searched 91 square miles over 10 hours with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to locate the three. The commission is investigating the accident.