Home town of Shoal Creek boating accident victims share sympathies, locals reiterate importance of safety

MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. - The Shoal Creek is a dangerous portion of waterway during the best of conditions.

But at night, locals say the area where a mother and daughter were tragically killed over the weekend, is treacherous.

According to ALEA, two boats collided around 10:40 p.m. Saturday. The Lauderdale County coroner confirmed Lauren Cowart, 37, was killed, along with a minor, who WHNT News 19 learned was Lauren's daughter Blakely. Both were from Augusta, Georgia. One other person was seriously injured and was taken to Huntsville Hospital in serious condition.

A lot of the problem comes down to congestion. On a typical weekend, thousands of boats are coming and going in a compact area.

Word of the boat collision Saturday evening quickly spread through the Shoals community. Lauren Cowart and her 5-year-old daughter Blakely died when two boats struck one another.

Jack Summers, who lives and works along the Tennessee River, was shocked when he heard about the accident.

"I was devastated. I hated to hear of any kind of accident on the water. It was terrible; terrible that something happened. Surprised? No, this is a high traffic area."

He is all too familiar with how hazardous this waterway can be, especially on weekends.

"A lot of times and especially at night, you see boats driving excessive speed at night and it is dangerous. You know, it`s hard to see the little lights on boats or see other boats at night too."

He added the river gets dark, especially when the sky is overcast. Couple the lack of light with any kind of speed, and he explained it can get life-threatening very quickly.

"Have plenty of lights; light your boat well. Illuminate it really well. Be conscious of your surroundings; don`t assume that a boat coming down the river or coming towards you can see you."

And boating experts say if you have any kind of emergency and your boat dies, keep a battery-powered strobe light on-board as a warning device.

Alabama Marine Police have not released any details on the collision itself. But no matter what the cause, the incident is certainly a tragedy.

Lauren worked for Weir Stewart, an advertising and design firm in Augusta. The company issued a statement, calling her "a vibrant and caring friend."

"The entire W/S family is shocked and heartbroken to tragically lose a co-worker we consider a sister. Lauren was a talented designer, a steadfast teammate, a vibrant and caring friend to everyone and above all else, a loving and proud mother. We all find a little peace knowing that Lauren and her sweet, silly and beautiful daughter Blakely are together. Our company’s story has changed. And, while we will miss her irreplaceable spirit always, it’s certain that Lauren’s contributions have shaped who we are and will forever impact who we’ll become."

Blakely attended Lake Forest Hills Elementary, also in Augusta. The Richmond County School System offered their condolences in a separate statement.

"The Richmond County School System extends its heartfelt condolences for the loss of Blakely Cowart, a Pre-K student at Lake Forest Hills Elementary, and her mother, Lauren.  We are all deeply saddened by this tragic event. As the school community processes the tragic news and copes with grief, we will offer resources and services to support all of our students and staff."

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