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Dangerous activity on rise at Lake Mead, officials say

Updated August 28, 2023 - 9:30 am

National Park Service officials have noted an increase of unsafe and unlawful behavior, including drunken driving, in the Lake Mead area in recent years.

“We have seen increasing trends of unsafe and unlawful activity over the past few years that is not just limited to DUI incidents,” John Haynes, a spokesperson for the park service, said in an email this month. “Although many factors may be contributing to this trend, we have also seen increasing numbers of visitors to the park over the same period. We have been engaging all summer with the public to remind visitors to keep safety and considerate behavior in the forefront when at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.”

The recreation area has been in the news this summer following a particularly deadly Father’s Day weekend, when six deaths were reported. The deaths stemmed from a car crash, drownings and an apparent suicide.

Two more people drowned at the lake during the last weekend in July, and two Las Vegas residents were killed in a boat crash near Callville Bay boat ramp this month.

Game wardens with the Nevada Department of Wildlife arrested 57-year-old Paul Robinson of Henderson in connection with the fatal boat crash and accused him of operating a boat while impaired.

The park service said rangers investigated 10 reports of people operating a boat while under the influence last year, which is the highest number of reports in the past four years of data provided by the agency.

So far this year, the agency has investigated one case.

According to data from the park service, the number of DUI investigations conducted by rangers also has increased in recent years, from 64 in 2019 to 147 last year.

The agency only records investigations, not arrests made by park rangers, and its data does not include DUI or boating under the influence arrests made by game wardens with the Department of Wildlife, Haynes said.

Doug Nielsen, a spokesperson for the Department of Wildlife, said both agencies patrol the lake and enforce boating laws, although he said it’s common for game wardens to take the lead on impaired boating investigations. On particularly busy days, officials from Arizona law enforcement agencies also patrol the lake.

“It’s not uncommon to see both the park service and the Department of Wildlife on the water at the same time, even responding at the same time,” Nielsen said.

The Department of Wildlife has recorded one arrest this year on a charge of operating a boat while under the influence, according to data from the state agency. The agency did not record any arrests last year for DUI or boating under the influence.

The department recorded 15 impaired boating arrests in 2020 and 10 in 2021. One case in each year included a person who also was arrested on suspicion of DUI, the agency said.

According to a spokesperson, the state agency only records data on arrests, not overall reports of DUI or operating a boat while under the influence.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Review-Journal staff writer Sabrina Schnur contributed to this report.

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