Coast Guard to Hawaii spring breakers: Don't drink and swim (or drive a boat)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Coast Guard and state agencies have a message for spring breakers headed out onto the water: Have fun, but be safe.

Authorities are pledging to increase their presence off Oahu starting Saturday in anticipation of ocean parties popping up during spring break.

They want to discourage a repeat performance of the "floatilla" fiasco on July Fourth, when an estimated 10,000 people went out into the waters off Waikiki on floaties, kayaks, paddleboards and boats.

Hundreds of people had to be rescued and 10 people were taken to hospitals with alcohol-related injuries.

"We just want to make sure that everyone is having fun and staying safe at the same time," Coast Guard Petty Officer Eddy Crochetiere said. "If they're under the influence of alcohol, they should not be getting behind the wheel of a boat or swimming in the water."

Boaters are also reminded to have proper safety gear on board and to not overload their vessels.

Boat operators who fail sobriety tests could be fined up to $1,000 and face up to 30 days in jail.

"Drink responsibly," said Robert Farrell, enforcement officer with the state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement. "Be responsible for your own actions when you're out on the water and keep yourself self."

Crochetiere said swimmers should also be aware of currents that can pull them away from shore.

"That coupled with the drunkenness will make it hard for them to swim back to shore. It's extremely dangerous," he said.

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