NAPLES – Speaking from a Long Lake dock Wednesday, Maine Warden Service officers and others urged boaters to think safety first during the upcoming summer season.

The service plans to increase its education efforts, and also law enforcement on high-volume water bodies, including Long Lake, where two people were killed in a boating collision in August.

“This summer the Maine Warden Service will be stepping up its law enforcement details,” said Col. Joel Wilkinson, Maine’s chief game warden.

Warden Lt. Adam Gormley said the service will conduct saturation patrols using overtime allotments for recreational boating and safety inspections. The patrols will be funded by revenue from the U.S. Coast Guard and grant money.

Wilkinson said the increased enforcement will focus on bodies of water with high boating volume and a high number of complaints during the peak boating season.

Gormley said that while Maine’s boating laws do not require the use of life jackets or set speed limits, the service hopes to address safety issues without legislation.

“Right now our best tool is going to be enforcement and education,” said Gormley.

The speakers encouraged the use of life jackets, and district game Warden Jeremy Judd demonstrated that it is easier to have the life jacket on at all times than to try and put it on after falling into the water.

“We can take major steps to reduce needless fatalities,” Maj. John Fetterman of the Maine Marine Patrol said.

The speakers also stressed the importance of staying sober while boating.

“We all know driving and drinking doesn’t make good sense,” said Capt. Jim Rendon of the Coast Guard, “and the same goes for boating.”

Last August, 55-year-old Terry Raye Trott of Naples and 44-year-old Suzanne Groetzinger of Berwick were killed when their 14-foot motorboat was cut in half by a Sunsation Dominator powerboat driven by 39-year-old Robert LaPointe of Bridgton and Medway, Mass. LaPointe subsequently pleaded not guilty in Cumberland County Superior Court to charges of manslaughter, operating under the influence, and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon.

The 2007 boating season tied with the 2005 season as the deadliest year for boating fatalities in Maine, with 16 people killed. There were a total of 100 accidents, six of them alcohol-related. Wilkinson said 85 percent of boating fatalities involve people not wearing a life jacket.

No boating fatalities have been recorded this year, as of Wednesday.

Wilkinson said the Maine Warden Service has 87 field wardens and vacancies for six more. The service also has 135 officers in fields such as investigation and aviation.

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