• 57°

Lessons in lives lost

For many, Labor Day Weekend marks the unofficial end of summer — one last hoorah before the chill of fall descends on North Carolina.

But make no mistake: even with the changing of the seasons just around the corner, Beaufort County residents and visitors will still be spending plenty of time on the water for the next few weeks.

As always, it is critical that everyone who spends time on the Pamlico and its tributaries remain vigilant about safety in the months to come. This weekend, two tragic incidents in our area reminded us just how quickly the river can take a life.

Here in Washington, a Vanceboro man drowned in the Pamlico River on Saturday afternoon after leaving his boat and attempting to swim to Castle Island. Reports of his disappearance prompted a search effort by Washington Police and Fire-EMS-Rescue, Bunyan Fire Department, the Sidney Dive Team, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard. The man was found after about five hours of searching, just 200 feet away from his boat.

The same afternoon, boaters discovered a body in the waters of the Tar River, near Town Commons in Greenville, prompting a closure of the park and river access in part of Pitt County. According to the Greenville Police Department, the discovery is being investigated as an apparent drowning.

These two stories are only the most recent in a long-running history of deaths on the Tar-Pamlico. They are not the first, and will certainly not be the last, and each passing is just as tragic as the one before. In most cases, however, drowning deaths such as these are preventable through simple steps such as swimming in groups, wearing PFDs and showing a healthy respect for the potential lethality of our local waterways.

A variety of organizations offer water safety tips for individuals, families and boaters, including the American Red Cross, the National Safety Council, the Pamlico Sail and Power Squadron and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. We would encourage our readers to seek out these resources and abide by their guidance while on the water.

As always, we here at the Daily News are saddened to hear of these losses, and grateful for the agencies who help bring closure to the families and friends who are left behind. To our readers, we urge you, as you and your families enjoy the beautiful waterways of our area, please do so safely. It could save your life or the life of someone you love.