MORNING STAR • AUGUST 14 - 20, 2008
Irresponsible boaters causing injuries to others By Donna Dukes-Huston With approximately 70 million recreational boaters in the United States occupying more than 290,000 square miles of water, it is imperative that boat operators are well-versed in safety rules and regulations. Margie Wilson of Delmar has spent her summer recovering from serious injuries instead of enjoying her own boat all because of the negligence of another boat operator. On Memorial Day weekend Margie and her husband, Wayne, took their 18-foot center console Seaquest out on the Nanticoke River for their first ride of the season. Wilson said that the weather was gorgeous and the river was calm. After about 45 minutes on the water, they were approaching the Mardela area when they noticed a much larger boat passing by them. The Wilsons were in the center of the river, and this other boat was cruising along the shoreline. Wilson remembered thinking, “What a beautiful boat,” but never anticipated what was to come. Wilson said that they could tell that the approaching boat was traveling at a speed greater than it should have been for that area. “This contributed to the height and intensity of the wake it caused,” Wilson said. The Wilsons acknowledged the wake of this boat, and Margie reached for the railing at the first swell as she normally would in a typical wake. Instead of their boat smoothly rolling over the wake, Margie was flipped up into the air before she could reach the rail. She came down on her back and landed across the bow storage area. She was unable to get up before being thrown up in the air a second time then landed on her arm and shoulder which caused her a great deal of pain. “It was like being slammed against concrete,” Wilson said. “I never imagined it could have hurt like that.” But the water was not finished with her yet. As she struggled to right herself, she was lifted off the boat one more time. When she came back down this time, she could not stand up or move into any other position. Wilson’s husband and grandson tried to help her, but Wilson said that everything happened so quickly that they were unable to do anything for her until the boat calmed. Fortunately they were able to dock fairly quickly at a private dock along the shoreline where Margie was transported to the hospital. She suffered an L2 compression fracture and must wear a corset-style back brace for a minimum of 12 weeks. She also suffered a right humeral fracture
which was surgically repaired. She has worn an arm sling for the past six weeks and now faces at least six weeks of physical therapy. She believes that the other operator had no idea that his wake caused any damage at all, and because of this, he could make this same mistake again and cause injury to someone else. “The other boater was going too fast to begin with, but once he produced the wake, he could have slowed down and this would have slowed the effects of the wake a bit more,” Wilson said. According to www.boatsafe.com, every operator is responsible for his own wake and any damage caused by it. When a larger, faster boat is overtaking a smaller vessel, such as the Wilsons’ boat, it must do so with as much room as depth conditions allow. It may be necessary for the larger boat to slow its speed so as not to rock the other vessel. Negligent operation of a boat can lead to an operator being charged with careless operation, inattentive operation, reckless operation or assault by vessel. On average, approximately 700 people die in recreational boating accidents each year. The Coast Guard's 48th annual report, Boating Statistics 2006, indicates that 70% of reported deaths occurred on recreational boats where the operator had not received any formal boating safety instruction. It is the belief of boating safety experts that requiring recreational boaters to have boating safety instruction could save numerous lives each year, according to the Coast Guard Auxiliary. In a boating safety course, potential operators would learn navigation rules in order to avoid causing any accident or injury. For example, when two powerboats are meeting headon, or nearly so, either can signal their intention of passing port to port using one short blast. The other vessel should signal agreement by signaling one short blast, according to Delaware Boating Basics-A Guide to Responsible Boating. Operators would learn additional navigation rules for other situations in a safety course. Operators are also responsible for having proper equipment on their boats to ensure the safety of all passengers. First and foremost, federal law requires recreational boaters to carry one Coast Guard-approved life jacket of the correct size and in good condition for each person aboard. They come in both adult and chil-
dren’s sizes. Other types of required equipment include fire extinguishers, sound signals, backfire flame arrestors, mufflers and proper ventilation. Boating can and should be a fun and relaxing activity, but the operator must be responsible for his actions at all time. Coast Guard studies indicate that as
many as 50% of all boating accidents may be alcohol related. Under Delaware law, no person shall motor, sail, row, operate, command or have actual physical control of any vessel or boat underway on Delaware waters while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs or any combination of drugs and/or intoxicating liquors.
Anyone convicted of such charges with a blood alcohol concentration of 10% could be fined from $500 to $2,000 with up to 30 days in jail. To sign up for a boating safety course, contact Wayne Hickman of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary at 629-6337. Classes are offered at the Nanticoke River Yacht Club in Seaford.
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Published on Oct 15, 2009
Published on Oct 15, 2009
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