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Deputy rescues two men after boating accident

An alert off-duty Jefferson County deputy rescued two men thrown from their boat in Pine Bluff.
PINE BLUFF, AR - A boating accident in Jefferson County this weekend has deputies warning other boaters to be cautious.

Jefferson County Deputies rescued Phillip and Gaylon Green from Slackwater Harbor Saturday near Pine Bluff after their boat hit some debris in the water. Both men were ejected from the boat. The boat kept going, injuring Phillip Green, breaking his leg. Deputies cited him for disabling the cutoff switch on the boat's motor.

Now the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is warning other boaters to remember to make safety a priority. After spring storms and recent heavy rain, lakes and rivers are running swift and high. The Arkansas River is under a small craft advisory, and there are all kinds of hazards boaters need to watch out for.

Summer-like weather has people eager to get out on Lake Hamilton and enjoy some fun in the sun, but recent heavy spring rains have flushed a lot of debris into the water that boaters need to steer clear of.

Richard Kelley, Flotilla Commander with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary says they try to clear out the lake for the boaters so boats and propellers aren't ruined. They make several trips along the lake clearing large logs and other obstacles.

It's still early in the season, so not many people are out on the water, but Kelley says that means those who are need to be even more careful. First timers out on the water this season say, that's their biggest complaint on a day like this. Adam Worthen and his friends couldn't wait to get out on lake Sunday.

"We steer clear of the debris and watch where it is. It's bad, but not dangerous if you're paying attention," he said.

Kelley's best advice for boaters is to always have a person on board as a lookout.

Another major factor is while while the air temperature feels like summer, the water temperature feels more like winter. Jack Thorp, Flotilla Operations Officer for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, says the water temperature right now is only around 55 degrees.

"Normally the water temperature would be starting to rise the further you go down the lake, the warmer it gets. It's still way too cold to really be out swimming. It's fine for boating, but I don't recommend skiing or tubing," Thorp said.

Even if you plan to stay in the boat, if you have an accident, you could be thrown into the water. Thorp says if you get tossed, you want to be able to get back in quickly, because the water is dangerously cold. "Hypothermia could set in in just a few minutes in 55 to 65 degree water. You're expending a lot of energy and your body warmth is dissipating."

That's why right now while it's still early in the season boaters should brush up on safety measures. Worthen says he and his friends are always careful.

"There's crazy people out there, but if you're a cautious driver and pay attention to what's going on, and have other people pay attention, you should be safe."

Thorp says right now there are not enough boaters on the lake, if you go in the water, there might not be anyone close by to come help you.

"You may be out there for awhile."

Ever year the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary says, they put out the same warnings, yet every year they see the same type of tragic accidents on the water. They say a lot of those accidents are avoidable.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary says July 4th is the busiest time on Lake Hamilton.
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