ODNR stresses safety as boaters take to the water for Memorial Day weekend

At age 70, Mike Dunbar has seen a lot on the water.

“I watch out for other people, a lot,” he said.

He's known people who have died in boating accidents.

“Going full rate of speed, he hit another boat, both boats sank,” he said.

Which is why he makes sure he is alert and safe.

“Particularly on a busy weekend, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day,” Dunbar said.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, there were 13 deaths statewide in 2015, 12 in 2016, a high of 20 in 2017 and 18 deaths last year.

“Last year, we had 18, 15 of which could have been possibly avoided by wearing life jackets,” said Sergeant Andy Foos with ODNR.

Foos says most accidents and deaths don't happen while people are cruising across the lake quickly. It's when people feel they are safest.

“We see a lot of people put their life jackets on when they are going across the water real fast. We rarely have fatalities when people are cruising across the water. It's usually when they come to a stop to fish,” Foos said.

In addition to the fatalities, ODNR also investigated 148 boating incidents that resulted in 59 injuries.