Officers Patrol For BUI's On Percy Priest Lake - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Officers and Volunteers Attempt To Prevent Another Deadly Memorial Day

Percy Priest Lake Percy Priest Lake

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Seven people have already died this year on Tennessee waters, and that is twice as many as this same time last year. That's why Wildlife Officers and volunteers scoured Percy Priest Lake Saturday to prevent that number from rising this holiday weekend.

A popular spot to patrol is called "Party Cove." It's boat after boat of revelers drinking and dancing. While there is nothing illegal about that, officers say once the anchors go up, the driver of that boat needs to be sober or they will ticket you for a BUI.

"Anytime you mix water and alcohol it's not a good deal," said TWRA officer Brad Bagwell. Last year they ticketed more than 150 people for boating under the influence, a charge that can come with court costs, jail time and fines. It is illegal to drive a boat with a .08 blood alcohol limit, the same as a DUI in a car. Not only can it be expensive, the combination can be deadly.

Last August, Holly Nelson, 23 died on Percy Priest Lake when a propeller blade hit her head sending her to the bottom. Toxicology reports show she had three times the legal alcohol in her blood when she died. She was also not wearing a life jacket. That is what concerns Wildlife volunteer Courtney Cox. "If it had hit her in the head and she had a life jacket on she still would have been floating they could have found her and she might have lived. But she got knocked unconscious and went straight down and drowned immediately," said Cox.

Cox didn't know Holly Nelson, but her job with the "Wear It Tennessee" organization this summer is to prevent another death by passing out free life jackets to anyone who will promise to wear it at all times.

"Getting a pledge card from them is kind of like a promise, a pledge exactly what it is that they'll wear it. We are not going to give someone something for free if they are just going to throw it in the back of the boat and not take it seriously," said Cox.

And statistics prove boaters and swimmers should take it very seriously. 75 percent of all boating deaths are drownings and 84 percent of those weren't wearing a life vest. It's a reminder that without the precautions, a lake can claim a life in an instant.

"You think you can swim, but when you get knocked out of a boat it's kind of impossible, the water is a lot bigger force than you are," said Cox.  The "Wear It Tennessee" crew will be giving out those inflatable life vests all summer long on lakes throughout the state.


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