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Boat accident survivor urges people to be safe

Mark Raymond, Jr. is now wheelchair-bound, but it's not slowing him down.

NEW ORLEANS — With Memorial Day Weekend approaching, one New Orleans man is urging folks to stay safe.

Mark Raymond, Jr. said he was enjoying Fourth of July festivities on Lake Pontchartrain in 2017.

“Having a lot of fun. Playing in the water. Cooking food on the boats," Raymond said.

Raymond was 27 at the time, and he made a split-second decision that changed his life forever.

“I took a dive off the back of the boat headfirst and shattered the fifth vertebrae in my neck which resulted in a spinal cord injury," Raymond said.

Raymond is now wheelchair-bound, but it's not slowing him down.

In 2021, Raymond opened Split Second Fitness in Gentilly, and the fitness center has helped more than 350 people since.

Raymond said it's a safe place for people with a wide range of disabilities to receive therapy and exercise.

“We are the only fitness center of our kind in the Gulf South," Raymond said.

Some of the people at Split Second Fitness have also suffered similar injuries due to boating accidents.

According to the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries, there were 29 boating death in 2022. 22 of which were not wearing a lifejacket.

So far this year, four people have died, LDWF said.

According to the Coast Guard, alcohol remains one of the top factors in fatal boating accidents.

That's why Ramond is urging people to limit their alcohol intake.

“Just remind you to be mindful of all your surroundings. Don’t dive off a boat headfirst. Jump, feet first. So, we can prevent some of those accidents," Raymond said.

National Boating Safety Week ends on May 26.

If you would like to learn more about The Split Second Foundation, visit their website. 

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