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Officials urge safety on Minnesota lakes 4th of July weekend

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With a beautiful Fourth of July weekend ahead and more people on Minnesota's lakes, state and county officials are urging safety when people venture out on the open waters.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek tells WCCO, "Our message this 4th of July is simple, wear your life jacket. We want everyone to have a good time, but safety must be a top priority,” Stanek says. “Please be aware of your surroundings and use good common sense so that everyone is able to have a fun and enjoyable weekend."

Stanek noted how the heavy rainfalls of late have increased lake levels.

Lake Minnetonka Magazine has five safety tips from Stanek for lake safety, including how boaters should be cautious of child passengers.

Children 10 years and younger are required to wear a life jacket by law, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says.

The DNR urges everyone wear life jackets – and refrain from the use of alcohol.

“Safety never takes a vacation,” DNR boat and water safety specialist Kara Owens says in press release. “Boaters should wear a life jacket every time they step on a boat and stay away from alcohol; booze and boating don’t mix.”

The DNR says there have been four boating-related fatalities, compared to nine fatalities last year.

The department also noted how parents should pay attention to their children at the beach or pools, and should avoid becoming distracted with a book or cell phone.

Last year, there were 43 total boating fatalities and non-boating drownings, down from 55 in 2012, the DNR says.

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