Summertime and the livin’ is easy, except for a few families who will endure a summer of sadness and regret because of accidents on the water.
Floating down the Amite River in inner tubes is one of the popular pastimes in the Baton Rouge area, but two young men — both 26 and in the prime of their lives — drowned Sunday in the river.
Unfortunately, they have not been alone. Over the past five years, several others have drowned even in eight or 10 feet of water. Investigators said alcohol or drugs do not appear to have been a factor in Sunday’s drownings claiming the lives of the young men from Hammond and Marrero.
It is impossible to entirely eliminate the risks associated with the summer, and with the water.
State agencies such as the Department of Health and Hospitals issue advisories every year dealing with everything from the threat of drowning and to using sunscreen against cancer; law enforcement across the region and the state, including in the Amite River basin, have beefed up maritime enforcement; the companies that rent tubes for holiday partiers typically offer life vests but we suspect they get few takers.
Boating is more strictly regulated by law enforcement, and of course driving a boat while intoxicated is as against the law as impaired driving of a car.
All that said, we live in a state where rivers and streams are popular spots, as are Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf. Water sports are a part of Louisiana culture and our lives.
The father of Philip White Jr., one of Sunday’s victims, said the tragedy should spur greater regulation of tubing. He is joined by Livingston Parish’s coroner, Dr. Ron Coe, who said the community ought to consider what safety methods can be implemented to prevent future tragedies. “We have to question whether tubing on the Amite River is a public health hazard to our community,” Coe said.
Perhaps, but there is also the issue of compliance with any rules: If life jackets are required when tubes are rented, it also requires that the tubers wear them for the duration instead of doffing them when out of sight of the landing.
This is going to remain a popular pastime. We can only hope that like everything else on the water that it is enjoyed responsibly, with an eye to safety as well as fun.