For all those planning to hit the Red River this holiday weekend, expect some company. Extra boat patrols will get underway to make sure a day of fun does not turn into tragedy.
Sgt. Donna Jackson gave us a tour of the still-swollen river, devoid of boaters, jet skiers and shoreline party-goers Friday, on this cloudy prelude to Memorial Day weekend. But Sgt. Jackson expects to get much busier checking for safety violations, "be it drinking and driving, overloaded boat, just being careless."
Jackson works on the Caddo Sheriff's Office Marine Unit. She, along with her counterparts with the Bossier Parish Marine Patrol, will conduct patrols and offer assistance. And Jackson said most tragedies are preventable. "Usually that's how we wind-up with the drownings or the boating accidents or stuff like that because someone didn't do what they were supposed to do."
All three boat ramps in the Shreveport-Bossier area to the Red River remain closed for the weekend. That's expected to greatly curb the amount of boat traffic. Why are the ramps still closed? We're told that there's still a strong current, along with some potentially dangerous debris floating down from the storms up north. Another big reason: There's work that needs to be done on the boat ramps from high water levels and silt build-up.
Sgt. Jackson said some boaters will use private ramps while others can go a bit south of Shreveport to find an open boat ramp, "down south by the (Caddo Sheriff's) academy at Lock & Dam #5."
But, we also met some folks who didn't need to get on the water to enjoy the Red River. "Riding bikes and eating popcorn and drinking water," recited 7-year old Dustin Barron of Haughton, describing his day thus far. He and his 4-year old sister Hailey did say the water looked cool, just not cool enough to wade in, "because it's way too deep and I don't have my swimming trunks on," elaborated Dustin.
Playing it safe on the Red is exactly what Sgt. Jackson hopes people take to heart this holiday weekend. Boaters are reminded to make sure every person on a boat has a lifejacket or flotation device and that those under 12 are wearing lifejackets at all times.
Story by Jeff Ferrell