JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Thursday is sure to be one of the busiest days on the water in north Florida. Countless boaters will descend on local rivers, lakes and the ocean to celebrate Independence Day, and police say they'll be out in full force to make sure everyone is safe.
This comes after a deadly Memorial Day holiday in which investigators say two people were killed and one was seriously injured when their boat crashed into a dock near St. Augustine. Another man drowned after he jumped off his boat near downtown Jacksonville.
"I think we're at peace with the fact that he was doing something that he loved to do, so it helps us get through the very difficult times," said Danielle Rienks, whose father was killed in the boat crash.
Rienks is trying to remember the good times with her father, Tim Babb. He and his friend Christopher Hall were killed in the boat crash.
Babb's wife, Alicia, is still trying to recover emotionally and physically.
"My stepmother is still in the hospital. She has a long time to go to full recovery," Rienks said.
It's still unknown what caused the crash, but in light of the tragedy, Rienks is asking everyone to be safe on the water on July 4.
The U.S. Coast Guard will be just one of the agencies out watching over boaters.
"We're going to step up and make sure everybody's doing the right thing," said Randall Crook, of the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard will join the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local sheriff's offices in making sure people are obeying the rules. They'll also be keeping a keen eye out for drunken boaters.
Experts say it can be especially dangerous on the water after dark when people head to shore after the fireworks shows.
"Boaters need to be aware not to all leave at one time," Crook said. "It causes chaos and havoc, and it's unsafe. People run into one another."
Rienks says she hopes it's a safe and quiet holiday so no one else has to go through what her family's dealing with.
"We can't say it enough: Have as much fun as you possibly can and enjoy the weekend, but be safe," she said. "Follow the rules. They're there for a reason."
The Coast Guard recommends boaters always wear a life jacket when on the water, even if they know how to swim. Officials also say boaters should make sure they drink plenty of water and have a cell phone or VHF radio onboard.
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