SIDNEY – As boaters begin to venture out to bodies of water including Lake Loramie, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart and Fort Loramie Police Department Chief Nate Brown want them to think about safety.
“We want people to have fun on the water, and we want them to be careful,” said Lenhart, who was joined by Brown for his weekly interview. “We want them to be safe.”
Lake Loramie is a popular destination locally for boating and other water activities. The lake covers 870 acres and has 39 miles of shoreline.
“It’s a shallow lake with an average depth of 6 feet,” Brown said.
The Fort Loramie Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and McLean Township maintain a cooperative effort at Lake Loramie.
For a third consecutive year, local officials received a Marine Patrol Assistance Grant from the ODNR Division of Parks and Watercraft to operate patrols on Lake Loramie. A new member was added to the local patrol for 2020, bringing the total to six people on patrol at the lake.
“They know the lake,” Lenhart said. “They know the persons out there.”
Local personnel have a Lowe Roughneck aluminum boat that patrols the lake. Local staff usually wear yellow or white polo shirts on patrol while ODNR staff generally wear green or tan.
In 2019 local officials had 190 hours on patrol at the lake and made 168 documented contacts. Of those, 100 were annual safety checks. Unless a violation has occurred, the safety checks are voluntary.
“The advantage of completing a check and getting a sticker is piece of mind,” Brown said, adding boaters can request a safety check.
The most common equipment issue that’s found is a lack of personal flotation devices, Brown said.
On a boat 18 feet in length or shorter, passengers ages 10 and younger must wear a life jacket at all times. There must be enough personal flotation devices on board for everyone.
On all personal watercraft, everyone must wear a life jacket at all times.
“They have to fit right,” Lenhart said. “One size does not fit all.”
Lenhart said pets on boats also should wear life jackets.
“Get a life vest for that dog or pet,” he said. “That’s a big deal.”
Other common equipment issues include a lack of proper boat registration and numbering, lack of distress flags and lack of fire extinguishers.
“You will not be allowed to operate until you have those items,” Brown said.
Information about proper equipment can be found in the Ohio Boat Operators Guide, which is available online, at the Fort Loramie Police Department, at the Shelby County’s Sheriff’s Office, from the ODNR and at bait and tackle shops.
Wake violations are the most common moving violations that officials see. Wake violations are when a boat operates at a speed that is fast enough to generate a wake in a no-wake zone or an idle-only zone. Those zones are in places of shallow water that can have stumps under water, near banks that can be eroded and near docks.
Whenever someone is on a body of water, Lenhart said, they always should have a float plan – letting someone know where they will be and how long they anticipate being on the water.
Lenhart advised that boaters should have radios but cautioned that modern LED lights can interfere with radios. He also suggested boaters should ensure they’re wearing proper shoes and make sure there aren’t too many people on a vessel to ensure safety.
“In the United States there were 4,500 accidents that occurred on watercraft,” Lenhart said. “There were 2,613 injuries and 626 deaths in America. In Ohio in 2019 there were 14 deaths. In 2018 there were 17 deaths.”
The No. 1 cause of boating accidents is alcohol. Operator inattention or inexperience is the second leading cause of accidents while speed is the third most common factor. Most deaths involve people who weren’t wearing life jackets.
Anyone who was born on or after Jan. 1, 1982, is required to pass an Ohio Boating License & Boat Safety Course to operate a boat with 10 horsepower or more in the state.
Another topic on Lenhart’s mind is suicide. He was on a conference call with seven or eight other sheriffs and talked to a minster, all of whom said they’ve encountered an unprecedented number of people who have contemplated suicide.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, including job losses, have led people to feel helpless, Lenhart said.
“Collectively we’re all concerned and worried about that,” Lenhart said. “If you know somebody or you’re that person, certainly reach out for help.”
If people are feeling they are in crisis or need to seek help, there are hotlines available to help:
• Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio, 937-710-4616
• Tri-County Board of Recovery & Mental Health Services, 800-351-7347
• The Hopeline, a 24/7 crisis hotline, 800-567-HOPE (4673)
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.