Boat Safety Urged After Man Drowns While Saving Son

Lake Waccamaw is the most popular place for boating in columbus county. (file photo)
Lake Waccamaw is the most popular place for boating in Columbus County. (file photo)

For the second time in 28 days, firefighters and rescue crews recovered a drowning victim at Lake Waccamaw Saturday.

Shane Donovan Hunt, 33, went over the side of his family’s boat to retrieve a float carrying his nine-year-old son, according to State Parks spokesperson Katie Hall. Hunt never resurfaced. The boy was not injured. The incident was called in around 4:25 p.m. The family had launched from the Bella Coola boat landing and was some distance offshore when the tube carrying the boy came loose.

Hunt was not wearing a life jacket, Hall said.

Personnel from Lake Waccamaw Fire and Rescue were joined by the State Parks, Lake Waccamaw Rescue, the Wildlife Commission, and water rescue teams from Acme-Delco-Riegelwood, Brunswick and Whiteville Rescue.

The body was found by the Whiteville Emergency Services Drone Team, marking the second time the drone has been used for recovery of a body at the lake.

Hunt was recovered around 5:30 p.m.

The Fairmont man was on a fishing trip with his family, and had been excited about spending the time with them on the lake.

Lake Waccamaw Fire Chief Brandy Nance took to social media Sunday to ask patrons to be safe while enjoying the lake. 

“Lake Waccamaw Fire and Rescue has had four calls for service on our lake in the last 28 days,” she posted. “Our citizens and visitors have noticed and asked what they can do to help.”
Boat purchases rose during the pandemic, and many new boat owners are not experienced with watercraft or boating safety, according to the Wildlife Resources Commission. WRC Officers and State Parks personnel are on the lake every weekend performing safety inspections and trying to educate the public on safe boating practices.
The Mother’s Day drowning of Jeb Baldwin led Nance to start an effort to raise $20,000 for an emergency response jet ski to be moored near Dale’s Seafood. (See related story.)

Nance offered several basic suggestions for all boaters.

“Everyone wears a life jacket at all times while on or in the lake. The youngest to the oldest. In the boat or out of the boat. Shallow water or deep water. 

“Make sure to take a charged cell phone or other communication device with you while boating and call 911 immediately when you suspect you have an emergency. Minutes count. Do not delay.

“Do not go out on the water alone. If you do go out alone, let people know where you are going and when you except to return. 

“Have a plan with your group. Know who will do what in an emergency: medical, traumatic, lost, etc. If you will be returning back to a private pier, know the address associated with the pier and tell 911.”

Nance also called on boaters to be ready to help others. 

“Be on the lookout. If you see an emergency call it in and/or help if you feel comfortable. If you see an active rescue by rescue personnel avoid their immediate area.”

Recognizing when someone is in distress can also make a difference, Nance wrote. 

“Know the signs of drowning. Signs of a person actively drowning include silence (children who are hyperventilating won’t be screaming for help), a head that is tilted back towards the sky as it searches for air, and arms that are moving downward as the drowning person attempts to push their bodies upwards on something solid that is not there. Distressed swimmers may be clinging to the side of a pool or raft, or treading or bobbing in the water.”

Hunt was the second drowning in less than a month at the lake. Jeb Baldwin disappeared when his kayak overturned on Mother’s Day. His body was found three days later on the shore at the State Park, on what would have been his 19th birthday.

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About Jefferson Weaver 1251 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the managing editor of columbuscountynews.com and news director for WTXY radio. He can be reached at 910.632.4965, or by email at jeffersonweaver@columbuscountynews.com.