LAKE SHETEK - The summer of lake tragedies hit home during the weekend as a boater was killed early Sunday on Lake Shetek.
Murray County law enforcement released scant details about the early morning incident Sunday, as the investigation continues. No information about the occupants of the boat had been released as of Sunday night.
The Shetek area was abuzz Sunday afternoon with boaters and jet skiers during what, on the surface, appeared to be just another busy summer day on one of southern Minnesota's largest recreational lakes. But the tragedy that had occurred just hours earlier had people talking.
"It's horrible," said Barb Staples of Slayton, a long-time summer Lake Shetek resident. "It was definitely dark and late. The thing about boats is there are no brakes. People have to be aware of their surroundings at all times."
Time of day and possibly speed are widely thought to be the two main contributing factors to the weekend crash that residents familiar with the lake say occurred at the bridge at the second dike at Shetek.
"That bridge, you can't go under it," said Jeff Barstad, who has owned Lakes Marine and Sport on Shetek Drive since 1991. "Most of the accidents on the water involve speed and not paying attention. Most accidents happen when someone's in a hurry, in a rush."
Barstad and Staples said visibility is a major concern on the lake late at night. Boats are required to have the red and green "marker lights" on them, but those lights, as the name implies, are markers and don't provide navigational light necessary for late-night boating.
"You can't see stuff on the lake at night when it's dark," Barstad said. "Those little green and red lights don't do anything. Those lights are for people to see you, not for you to see them. And there's no need to go over 4 or 5 miles per hour when it's dark."
While little is known about this weekend's incident, Barstad said boaters need to practice patience on the water and take their time - whether it's during daylight hours or at night.
"Take your time and enjoy it," he said. "Enjoy the lake. People are always in such a hurry - slow down."
Barstad said he's seen about four or five accidents on Shetek in his 20-plus years there.
"Everything changes after dark," he said. "Maybe this person got confused; when it's dark you don't know where you're at."
The incident at Shetek is the latest in a large number of drownings and water-related incidents reported in Minnesota this year so far this summer as the summer of 2012 is turning out to be one of the deadliest in state history.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, more people have drowned in Minnesota this year than any other year in the last decade. The DNR said 28 people have drowned in the lakes and rivers of Minnesota this year, including, more than a handful of boating-related drownings.
"People have to know the lake they're on,"?Staples said. "I?don't know exactly what happened, but it's pretty tragic."
The incident on Shetek wasn't the only tragedy on Minnesota waters this past weekend. On Saturday, a 6-year-old boy drowned while attending a birthday party at a beach in Golden Valley, the Associated Press said. In an earlier incident, this one on the Fourth of July, a 39-year-old man suffered a broken pelvis and broken leg and faces a months-long recovery after another boater slammed into his family's boat, reportedly at about 30 to 40 mph, and left the scene on Big Cormorant Lake in Becker, KSTP reported. The boat carrying the family had its lights on at the time of the crash, authorities said.