Boat operator arrested for boating under the influence in Smithfield

SMITHFIELD, Va. - Ten passengers are safe after a boat overturned near Morgarts Beach in Smithfield Saturday morning.

Newport News dispatchers contacted the Virginia Marine Resources Commission at 4:10 a.m. for assistance with an overturned vessel carrying 10 people.

The VMRC responded by vessel and arrived on scene at 4:50 a.m. By that time, the Newport News Fire Department and the Coast Guard had already recovered all passengers from the vessel and taken them to the beach's pier.

Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue evaluated all 10 passengers. Two were taken to the hospital with minor scrapes.

The VMRC arrested the vessel operator, who was charged with boating under the influence and reckless operation of a watercraft.

Marine police are looking for people boating under the influence, which is illegal.

Members of the Boy Scouts of America Sea Scout program know a lot about boating safety and told News 3 unfortunately accidents are very common.

"There's a couple times when we've actually heard him say, 'Hey, you got to get out the way' on their loud speaker," said Taylor Morrissey.

Police ask for boaters who are going to drink alcohol to designate someone who will stay sober to operate the boat.

"People who are drinking and boating aren't making the same decisions that a sober person would," Morrissey said. "They don't think, 'Oh, this is a lot of people on a boat;' they don't think, 'Oh, this sharp turn isn't going to do anything.' Just normal casual reactions that you would have if you were sober."

The command duty officer investigating the incident said not wearing a life jacket is also a leading factor in boating accidents.

"If I don't have my life jacket, I have to swim for as long as it takes until the Coast Guard rescues me, and it takes a lot more energy than people realize," added the Sea Scout.

Those who are arrested for boating under the influence can face up to a year in jail and lose their license to operate a boat.

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