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Officials provide valuable boating safety tips in light of tragedies over holiday weekend

One of the most important things anyone can do is to let family and friends know where they're leaving from, where they're going and when they are returning.

OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. — With three people killed in two separate boating mishaps over the holiday weekend in Connecticut, boating safety is top of mind.

"There might be a dozen or half a dozen rescues every year," said Sgt. Ryan Walsh of the Old Saybrook Police Department.

On Sunday, the department's marine patrol raced to their first call of the year.

"We had a kayaker who overturned off the river and thankfully he was wearing a life jacket and was able to get to shore," Walsh said.

Wearing a life jacket is the most important thing anyone on a watercraft can do, safety experts say.

"Life jackets are the key to [the] survival of accidents on the water," Walsh noted. "I think over 90% of the fatalities are preventable if you had a life jacket on."

RELATED: Child dies in boat accident on Wyassup Lake in North Stonington

Another key component to boating safety: the weather report.

"And they should be looking for the entire day because as you know around here, in New England, weather changes quickly and then the water temperature," said LTJG Chris White of the United States Coast Guard Long Island Sound Sector.

Especially with water temperatures in the 40's, as they are now.

"And you can only last so long in that cold of water," White said. "So you should be dressing for the water, not the temperature of the air."

In other words, even if the air temperature is mild, bring along a jacket and some long pants to wear aboard.

"If you go into the water, your skin is going to lose temperature much quicker than something covered with long sleeves or pants," said White.

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One of the most important things anyone climbing aboard a vessel can do, he said, is to let family and friends know where they're leaving from, where they're going and what time they plan to be back.

"The Coast Guard has an app where you can fill out what we call a float plan and send it to a family member," said White. "You don't send it to the Coast Guard. You send it to a family member (or friend) and then they can call the Coast Guard if they suspect something's gone wrong."

RELATED: New owners, same 'wonderful opportunity' to see eagles on Connecticut River cruise

Also on the U.S. Coast Guard app, boaters can request a safety check and review the safety equipment they have aboard depending on the size of their vessel.

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