Officials urge caution after deadly boat accident

- It's one of the busiest boating weekends of the year, and with so many boaters of varying experience levels on the water, officials say it's important to stay diligent this Memorial Day Weekend.

The warning came too late for people on two boats, which collided Friday evening off the coast of St. Petersburg near the U.S. Coast Guard's 6th Street pier

While the cause of the crash was still unknown Saturday morning, Tampa Police Marine Officer Russell Spencer said speed is one of the biggest factors when it comes to accidents on the water, especially at night when visibility is reduced significantly.

"You just need to be careful and pay attention to your surroundings," Spencer  said. "At night, you may not see and object until you're 10 feet away from it, and then you're just not going to have time to react."

Even with navigation lights, which are required when it's dark out, other boats, hazards in the water or warning markers are much harder to see at night.

Spencer recommended all boaters, even those who don't anticipate being out after dark, pack extra lights, flashlights and batteries. While not required by law, Spencer said wearing a life vest when the sun goes down can be the difference between life and death in the event of an accident.

"At night, a small accident that causes someone to go overboard, now, can easily turn tragic if they can't be removed from the water quickly or aren't wearing some type of flotation device," Spencer said.

Whether day or at night, Spencer added, every boat should have enough life vests for each passenger aboard.

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