Family who lost daughter on the water urges boater safety during Memorial Day weekend

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – It’s almost been a year since 18-year-old Emma Fila died on Fort Loudoun Lake.

“Somebody told me it’s like a pebble in your pocket,” said Kathy Rollow, Emma’s mother. “You know some days it rubs you wrong and somedays it’s nice to have, you know good sweet memories.”

Like so many others, Emma always took the appropriate safety measures while on the water and her parents backed it up.

“I don’t know how anybody could be more safety conscious than us. Frank was in the Coast Guard. When she was younger, we wouldn’t even let her go outside with a life jacket on. We had a floating house on Norris Lake, and she wasn’t allowed outside without it. She always wore it. She had all of her safety gear on. It’s just, I don’t know, it’s a tragedy, “said Rollow.

Emma’s parents say their daughter hit a sleeper log in the water last June while driving a jet ski.

“And then she was ejected from the jet ski and hit her head on something after that,” said Frank Fila, Emma’s father. “I came upon the scene and people were already doing CPR on her and a man who tried to rescue her, Terry Dea. He had a heart attack trying to save her. It was kind of a chaotic scene I rode upon. “

Terrance ‘Terry’ Dea, 70, also died in the accident Emma was in.

Those serving with the TWRA say they are going to do their best to make sure everyone makes it home safe this Memorial Day weekend. They’ll be looking for any unsafe act.

“Drunk boaters become drunk drivers when they leave the lake, so we try to remove them before they become a drunk driver,” said wildlife officer Jeff Roberson. “(We’ll) remove any and all impaired operators from the waterways.”

Boating under the influence penalties changed this last year. They now mirror DUI penalties, meaning there is mandatory jail time and legal fees.

Roberson advises boaters not to drink and drive, utilize life jackets, have an up-to-date fire extinguisher, and follow all the aquatic-related laws.

“Being safe on the water is a big thing for me,” said boater Chris Kinney. “We’ve noticed a lot of new boaters in the last couple of years and people don’t really know what they’re doing. It’s a good idea to take a class. Even if you don’t have to for age reasons, go through the process of getting a license. It’s not a bad thing to do. “

It is also being encouraged for people to be aware of their surroundings while out on the water or near it.

“We talked about how initially not to be overly cautious you know and let the people around us live their lives, but you have to. People have to enjoy their time while they’re here, “said Rallow.

The nonprofit, Emma Fila Foundation, recently awarded four $ 1,000 scholarships to four East Tennessee students. Emma’s mother hopes to continue helping families who’ve lost a loved one.


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