Experts offer small boat safety advice ahead of busy Memorial Day weekend

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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) -- Following a drowning involving a kayaker in eastern Kentucky, boating experts are issuing tips in time for the busy Memorial Day weekend.

Chris Howard with Canoe Kentucky in Franklin County say they expect thousands of boaters to take advantage of the holiday weekend in the Elkhorn Creek. He says with that amount of people, also comes with knowledge the public should bring with them.

“Even when you consider the safest circumstances, something could go wrong,” Howard told WKYT’s Nick Oliver on Friday.

On Wednesday this became the unfortunate reality for Paris "Andy" Smith of Pike County after he went missing from his kayak – later discovered to have drowned and found on Friday morning in the Big Sandy River in Pikeville.

Howard says keys for boaters with the busy weekend ahead is to always have a life jacket and have knowledge on how to swim – something he says enough people don’t know how to do although they still get on the water.

Howard says a problem in the kayaking field is the ease of access to the small boats. With cheap kayaks costing a low sum of money, he says people purchase them without proper training and from vendors who also don’t have knowledge on what people need to know.

“Part of the problem with getting a $100 kayak is they don’t have someone who is educated in the sport to show them how to properly paddle, show them how a life jacket is important. The fact you can go to Walmart and just buy one is a recipe for a disaster.”

He says too commonly kayakers flip and don’t know what to do – with many exhausting their selves trying to get back in. He says kayakers should worry more about getting to shore and if needed, let the equipment go before becoming pinned under the boat near a rock or debris.

Experts also say staying alert of bigger boats in the water is essential and when in a big body of water, consider staying near the bank – areas you can get out of danger if needed.

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