Coast Guard terminates July 4th boat outing because operator was under influence of alcohol

Great Lakes Coast Guard NewsCLEVELAND — A Coast Guard law enforcement team terminated a recreational boating voyage on Lake Huron Wednesday evening because the boat operator was determined to be under the influence of alcohol in the vicinity of Mackinac Island, Mich.

Counting both boating-under-the-influence violations and failed safety inspections, Coast Guard law enforcement teams throughout the Great Lakes region terminated the voyage of more than 20 vessels since Saturday — 11 on Wednesday alone.

The Coast Guard Station St. Ignace, Mich., law enforcement team boarded the 16-foot pleasure craft with two people at 11:50 p.m. aboard during a routine patrol after a local Independence Day fireworks display.

The boarding officer administered tests to determine the blood-alcohol content level of the boat operator. His recorded BAC was .19. The legal blood alcohol content level in Michigan is .10.

The Coast Guard towed the terminated vessel to the law enforcement pier on Mackinac Island and the Michigan State Police took the boat operator into custody.

“It’s our job to keep the waterways safe at all times especially before, during and after major events like the 4th of July fireworks display,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Gibb, a boarding officer at Station St. Ignace. “During routine safety inspection boardings, we always make sure the boat operator is fully capable of operating the vessel.”

Coast Guardsmen assigned to units throughout the 9th Coast Guard District, which encompasses all the waters in the Great Lakes region, terminated 16 boating voyages due to boating under the influence since Saturday.

Data from 2011 Great Lakes boating casualty statistics identified five primary reasons boaters did not make it home last year. Drowning and boating under the influence were the top two reasons. The other three reasons were weather, excessive speed and overloading of the vessel.

Operating a vessel under the influence is illegal. Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. Factor in boat motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray and a drinker’s impairment is accelerated. It is illegal to operate a boat with a BAC of .08 (.10 in Michigan).

Each year, hundreds of boating accidents causing serious injury or death result from impairment by alcohol.

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