At last check, there have been 10 non-boating fatalities reported in Minnesota so far this season, including 17-year-old Jonathan Mortensen in Lake Elysian last Friday afternoon and, in early June, the likely drowning of 73-year-old Vincent Mathiowetz on the Cottonwood River; high water has hampered the search and his body still has not been found.

The DNR’s Lisa Dugan believes the total number of drownings is actually higher because, “There’s a little bit of lag time for counties to issue the reports and send them to us. And it looks like just from stories that have been in the news that there is potentially two or three in addition to what we have recorded.”

Dugan is urging parents to be vigilant watching their kids in the water and said, “If you’re at areas even where there are lifeguards just remember not to treat a lifeguard as a babysitter. Parents and guardians should be the first line of defense and lifeguards would definitely be a second line of defense.”

The DNR is also encouraging boat operators to avoid distractions. Conservation Officer Lt. Adam Block said, “Boats don’t have brakes, of course,   so there is variable things out there — moving targets if you will. So it takes your undivided attention to operate that boat safely. So we are urging people — put the phones down. Your job is to operate that boat.”

Block is also reminding boaters to be safe and sober this Fourth of July because, “Lakes are getting very busy. 30 percent of our fatalities involve alcohol. So we know that it is impacting the safety of our boaters. We want to remind people to — if they are going to consume beverages out there be responsible about it — have a sober driver that is familiar with operating that boat.”

Block said over the past five years, Minnesota has had around 90 boating fatalities.