Wake County Sheriff's new patrol boat aims to save more lives

NEW HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Boating season is right around the corner.

The Wake County Sheriff's Office is launching its new patrol boat just in time.

Deputies tested out the new boat Thursday at the Bartley-Holloman Boat Ramp at the Sheron Harris Reservoir in New Hill.

The boat will be used to patrol and respond to emergencies at all Wake County lakes, including Falls Lake.

"We've had some very sad cases where lives of some young people, who are lost around waterways and our response, could have been better," said Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker. "So you put all these things together. Today is a very exciting day for our office and for us because today kind of signifies the very fact that we are going to be progressively aggressive in terms of making sure that we have the tools to get the job done."

The 21-foot boat has sonar and GPS to help deputies find people in the water quickly. Bright lights help with night searches.

"We get distressed calls all the time, people... out of gas, run-their-boat-ashore-type deal, hit something in the water and they can't get back," said Sgt. Steve Stell. "Unfortunately, we had several drownings last year that we dealt with, which the equipment we have on the boat, should assist us in maybe locating the subject quicker."

The boat is a tool used in the restructured special operations division.

The sheriff's office got a grant through Duke Energy to buy the boat.

Baker said more people have been in the water during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The pandemic closed down a lot of things, in terms of how people recreate and the things that they do, traveling and things like that," Baker said. "We saw that it was sending more and more of our citizens in this county out to parks and lakes and looking for somewhere to go and have a good time on their off time. So, we knew at that point, too, that we had to be better prepared for that need, should it arise."
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