One afternoon, two boats sank to the bottom of Lake Wylie -- both could have been prevented.
According to South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, two boats went to the bottom of the lake July 8. One was a pontoon in 3 feet of water near Ebenezer Park in Rock Hill.
“There wasn’t much to that one,” said Lance Cpl. Dwayne Rogers with SCDNR. “With that one, the plug came out, and they were right there at the ramp.”
The other incident could have been worse. At about 8:30 p.m., a wakeboarding boat sank in about 35 feet of water on the main channel leaving Goat Island in front of Ebenezer Park, heading southeast toward Nivens Creek. A Belmont family, including a 9-month-old with three adults, went into the water and floated until another boater found them.
“Everyone survived,” Rogers said. “They were floating in the water about 15 minutes.”
The baby was wearing a life jacket, as required by law. The adults weren’t. The family of experienced boaters, Rogers said, thought they could withstand tough conditions on the water.
“We had a big storm on the north end, and on the south end we were getting a strong wind,” Rogers said. “It basically started whitecapping on the lake.”
Rogers, also an SCDNR dive team instructor, said his patrol had come ashore as a weather app showed a serious storm was approaching. He advises other boaters to do the same.
“We saw it coming,” he said. “We had pulled off the lake because it was going to be a bad one.”
While some may associate severe weather sinking boats with the ocean, Rogers said the lake can be dangerous, too.
“On these lakes, if the wind gets bad enough, it can cause 3- or 4-foot swells,” he said.
On July 8, a first wave pushed the nose of the wakeboard boat down. A second wave swamped it with water. The family told law enforcement they hadn’t been wakeboarding that day and weren’t riding with a filled ballast. A ballast adds extra weight to the boat, causing it to ride low in the water and create a bigger wake.
Law enforcement wasn’t notified until the family was back home, said Rogers, who doesn’t believe alcohol or drugs played a role in the sinking. Too much time passed between the incident and his arrival to investigate. The boat was raised a couple days later.
“By the time we got the call, it had been two hours later,” Rogers said.
Along using a weather app or radio, Rogers advises boaters to follow the law, have life jackets on board and keep an eye on the sky.
“If you see the clouds blowing in, be smart,” Rogers said. “If it’s coming, seek shelter. Or at least get the boat to a dock.”