EDGEWATER, Md. (WJZ) — Saturday marked one of the deadliest days on Maryland waterways after six people died while on the water.

Natural Resources Police officials said there were three fatal boating accidents in seven hours.

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“It’s certainly been one of the worst days since I’ve been with the Natural Resources Police,” said Col. Robert Ziegler.

July 4th is the start of one of the busiest boating periods in Maryland. Overnight Wednesday, two people died after a jet ski accident.

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“We’re again asking boaters to be cognizant of safe boating practices,” Zigler said. “Everybody who in a boat on the water — needs to be wearing a life jacket.”

Eighty percent of the fatalities in boating accidents are the result of drownings, officials said, not from traumatic injuries. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boat accidents.

“You have to survive that initially insertion in the water,” Ziegler said, “and if you don’t have a PFD (life-jacket) on the likelihood of doing so is greatly diminished.”

He reminded boaters in the case they are ever in an accident, specialized teams will be responding to rescue them however they will need to survive the first 15 to 20 minutes in the water.

“You can be the best backyard swimming pool swimmer in the world, but when you get into tidal water with currents and waves breaking over your head — you’re going to find that it’s a whole different ball game,” Ziegler said.

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“And it’s one you’re most likely not going to survive,” he added.

Every boat must have one wearable life jacket for every person onboard. And the life jacket won’t do you any good stowed away in a compartment on your boat.

“To put a life jacket on when you’re about to go overboard is like trying to put your seatbelt on when you’re about to have a car accident,” said Ziegler. “You can’t do it — and even if someone throws one to you, it’s almost impossible to put it on while you’re in the water.”

“It floats, you don’t,” he added.

Here’s a list of some of the other items required on boats.

  • Sound-producing devices
  • Audible and visual distress signal
  • fire extinguisher for powered-vessel
  • a throwable floatation device for vessels over 16 feet
  • a communication tool (radio or cell phone)

Ziegler also reminded people to check the weather before they leave.

So far this year, Maryland has had nine fatal boating accidents with 11 fatalities.

Anne Arundel County’s Fire Chief reminded people to have a float plan.

“Tell somebody where you’re leaving from, that you let them know how long you’re going to be gone and you let them know where you’re coming back to,” Chief Trisha Wolford said.

That helps first responders reach you quicker and more effectively.

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Officials also reminded beachgoers to be safe in the water as well — including a buddy system.