The Westport Police Department said today it has received several complaints from the pubic regarding alcohol consumption and boating at the town beach, specifically at a remote area known as “Boat Beach.”

With the July 4 weekend approaching, the department issued a reminder that consuming alcohol on town beaches is prohibited and punishable by town bylaw violation. Police also said that boating while drunk is against the law.

Recently the Westport police and fire departments responded to a nighttime boat crash involving eight people in a 20-foot power boat. Five people were injured and one person had to be flown to the trauma unit at Providence Hospital. While police did not say alcohol was involved, they did say the accident is being investigated.

Alcohol is the number-one contributor to death and injury on the water, police said -- and Massachusetts has one of the strongest boating under the influence (BUI) laws in the nation.  An operator with a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 percent or greater is considered to be boating under the influence. Penalties can include the loss of the operator's motor vehicle license, fines, or imprisonment.

Police said alcohol consumption can affect people more strongly when combined with the natural stressors of sun, wind, boat vibration, and the motion of the vessel while underway. Dehydration is another stressor that can cause alcohol to be rapidly absorbed by the body.

Westport police noted that all vessels are required to have at least one USCG-approved life jacket for each person onboard. Life jackets must be in good and serviceable condition, readily accessible, and the proper size for the intended wearer.

The Westport Police Department said it will be coordinating with the local Harbor Master and the Massachusetts Environmental Police to make sure the beaches and waterways are safe. It is our goal to ensure everyone has an enjoyable Fourth of July holiday weekend.

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