DMR promoting water safety in the wake of tragic weekend

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It was a tragic weekend on the water in South Mississippi. Nine-year-old Joseph Schmidt of New Orleans was killed Monday when the tube he was riding struck a tree in the Wolf River.

In a separate incident, 28-year-old Joshua Turnipseed of Harrison County suffered broken ribs when his tube struck a pier on the Biloxi River on Sunday.

Marine patrol officials say attention to safety could help prevent similar tragedies in the future.

In both tubing accidents, DMR officials say the boat pulling the tube had come around a bend in the river. That can be an especially hazardous maneuver, since the tube often picks up speed and is flung around the curve in a sling shot effect.

"When you're coming up on a bend, you need to slow down and go around that bend at a slow speed, not a fast speed. Once you make a bend on a fast speed, it swings the tube out, which is really out of control then," said Rusty Pittman, DMR Acting Marine Patrol Chief.

And it's awfully easy to lose control on a tube; especially one that's gaining speed. Chief Pittman says he sees them go "airborne" all the time.

"You see a lot of them will make a sharp turn to try to throw people off the tubes, which can be dangerous, too. But there are safer ways to pull these tubes for the family to have fun and the kids to have fun," he said.

Acting Chief Pittman says you need to be aware of the river or body of water where you're boating or tubing. You should also be on the lookout for submerged hazards, things like logs or other debris.

"First time visitor on a river, and you want to do this, I would go out and survey the area that I'm going to be tubing in to make sure there's no obstructions in the water before I start," he explained.

With the start of summer, more and more boaters will be enjoying area rivers and waterways. Paying attention to safety can help avoid the kind of heartache that happened over the weekend.

"We just want the general public, the boating public, to know the safety laws out there first. Safety first," said Acting Chief Pittman.

The DMR marine patrol was quite busy on area waterways over the long holiday weekend. Twenty-five officers patrolled the waters south of I-10. They inspected more than 500 boats and issued 48 boating citations.

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