BCSO asks Tri-Cities boaters to stay safe on the water

KENNEWICK, Wash. – The Benton County Sheriff’s Office will have a boat on the water every weekend this summer starting with Memorial Day Weekend. Their team is encouraging boaters, paddleboarders and jet skiers to be safe. Deputy Brad Klippert walked through boat safety procedures to be aware of when you’re on the water this summer.

Life jackets

“We have recovered many people without life jackets…who are not alive today,” Dep. Klippert said. “Eyes are filling with tears, because of the bodies that we’ve had to recover. And I don’t want to do that this year.”

U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are required by law in Washington for anyone under the age of 12 while on the water or in a boat. It is also required to have a life jacket readily available for everyone on the vessel.

“Wearing a life jacket is the most important thing for water safety that we want everybody to know,” Dep. Klippert said.


Deputy Klippert spends hours a day outside on the boats, surveying and patrolling the Columbia River. After seeing a dermatologist, he found that he had cancerous and precancerous spots along his head and arms. 

“They told me, ‘Brad, wear your sunscreen.’ And Brad didn’t wear his sunscreen…” said Dep. Klippert. “This year I battled precancer and cancer cells all over my arms and face.”

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends 30 SPF sunscreen or above.

Reckless boating

Jet skis and high-powered boats love to drive recklessly, the deputy said. He reminds people to be mindful of the others on the water.

Driving recklessly is dangerous for the driver, as well as the people around them.

“Please, please, please, drive very carefully,” Dep. Klippert said.

Boating under the influence

Boaters of the legal drinking age can consume alcohol while on board a vessel, but the boat operator is not allowed to consume any.

“It is legal to have alcohol on a vessel, but the driver may not be intoxicated in any way,” Dep. Klippert said. “We don’t want to have to make any of those arrests. They’re not fun for us, and they’re not fun for you. And it’s extremely expensive.”

Two ways to get kicked off your boat

“If the boat is overloaded, or if the boat is overpowered,” Dep. Klippert said.

According to the deputy, there is a placard on every boat that states the maximum number of people who can be on a vessel and the maximum amount of horsepower that the engine can put out. He also wants people to know that babies and children count toward the number of boaters on board.

If boats exceed either of those limits, the Benton County Sheriff’s Department can order boats off the water immediately. He says it’s very unsafe to be overloaded or overpowered, and that he sees more people than he likes not following proper boating safety procedures when on the water.