By Ruben Lowman
The North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety recently confirmed that the force’s Marine Unit took part in Operation Hammerhead on the Intracoastal Waterway. Department of Natural Resources officers from Horry County also took part.
The operation was a joint effort by more than 35 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, where they performed safety checks and issued citations on both recreational and commercial boats that were traveling down the waterway in South Carolina.
Operation Hammerhead was carried out on Friday, March 18, and resulted in a total of 69 boats that were boarded, with dozens of citations coming from different law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
Two violations and 13 warnings came from SCDNR, 13 violations and eight warnings were given by the U.S. Coast Guard, along with 18 warnings handed out by local police departments. A total of 21 vessels, 1 SLED helicopter, 1 AUX Plane and the 43rdCST HAZMAT were used for the operation.
Lance Cpl. Amy Vicks, Community Engagement Officer with the NMB Police Department, said that the goal of the operation was to encourage and enforce boating safety and maritime security. As the area and its waterways have become more congested with boaters and traffic, it has led to an uptick in tragic accidents on the water.
Last year, two brothers drowned on the Intracoastal in North Myrtle Beach near the Palmetto Harbour subdivision after renting a pontoon boat to celebrate Mother’s Day together with their mom. According to statements made by city officials at the time, the boat the men were in hit the wake from a nearby boat, knocking one brother overboard with the other diving into the water in an attempt to save him. Both brothers died from drowning after never returning to the surface.
There were also boating incidents in nearby communities last year, with a 28-year-old man dying from blunt force trauma sustained in an accident on the waterway in Socastee. John Ray of Surfside Beach, who was driving the boat at the time, was sentenced to three years in prison and five years probation last month. Investigators with the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office said that Ray was intoxicated at the time, with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.14, nearly twice the legal limit.
Rep. William Bailey, 107th District, began a discussion last year when he asked his supporters whether congestion has become dangerous to the point a “no wake zone” is necessary through the Little River section of the waterway.
Boating safety experts urge boaters to maintain a slow speed and keep their distance from other boats. They also recommend to have an experienced boater as the designated driver if a group plans on drinking while on the water.