ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest of the year for boats.
And for two local families last year, it was the worst weekend of their lives. Two fishermen were killed in St. Augustine a year ago when their boat crashed into the dock on the way back to the Vilano Beach boat ramp.
Today, those families spent the day honoring their loved ones, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spent time checking boaters for proper safety equipment.
"Boating and operating a vessel is a trying or difficult task," said Lt. Paul Arkin of the FWC. "It's not only the boat you have to worry about, but you need to worry about other boaters. You need to worry about the tide conditions, the weather conditions, and when you're under the influence of alcoholic beverages, your normal faculties can be impaired and you may not be fully functional to operate a vessel."
One year ago Monday, Warren "Chris" Hall and his best friend were killed in a boating accident in St. Augustine that involved speed and alcohol, according to an FWC report.
Hall, 52, was driving an 18-foot Stumpknocker boat and had a blood alcohol level nearly two times the legal limit at the time of the crash, the report said. The boat crashed into a dock along the Intracoastal Waterway.
"More people have to realize this ocean and this water is dangerous. You need to observe the laws and the rules of the ocean," said Hall's mother, Margarett Hall (pictured), who honored her son on the anniversary of his death. "I only regret that I have lost one of mine to the water."
On Monday, FWC officials were out in full force, making sure everyone had the proper equipment.
"We don't want to meet people at a hospital emergency room," Arkin said. "We don't want to meet people at a funeral home, and we don't look forward to taking folks to jail. We want folks to have a good time out there and, in my opinion, alcoholic beverages and boating don't mix."
The FWC also wanted to remind boaters that if they're out on the water and get caught in a storm, they should get back to the boat ramp as soon as they can, or take cover under a bridge if they can't reach the boat ramp.