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Why Boaters Should Wear Life Vests and Limit Drinking

Published on Aug 9, 2013 at 8:40 am in Wrongful Death.

Kentucky Wrongful DeathA tragic July boating accident on New York’s Hudson River serves as a sad reminder of the importance of life jackets. When the driver hit a barge, two boaters died after being thrown from the boat. Both suffered head injuries and then drowned; neither was wearing a life jacket.

Life Jackets Save Lives

No one knows for certain if a life jacket would save them in the event of a crash. However, it is known that life jackets with neck supports can force an unconscious person into a floating position on their back.

What makes this story especially tragic is the boating party included a couple to be wed in a few weeks and some of the wedding party. The bride-to-be and the best man were thrown from the boat and found dead days later. The groom-to-be suffered injuries but wasn’t thrown from the boat.

They had set out for a short boat ride during a warm summer evening. The engaged couple lived on the river and enjoyed water sports. Presumably all aboard were active, fit people. It’s one of those times you probably would think least about life jackets. It was good weather, and they weren’t going far.

This is why experts caution that U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets should always be worn, regardless of the length of the trip, the type of boat, or whether the boaters can swim.

In 2010, the Coast Guard reports that 72% of boating deaths were caused by drowning; 88% of those victims were not wearing life jackets.

Alcohol Played a Role

Alcohol is also believed to have played a role. The boat’s driver was seen drinking with the group before they got on the boat and the authorities have charged him with vehicular manslaughter. He’s a friend of the group, and the mother of the woman killed said she wishes the criminal charges would be dropped.

This is also a reminder of the responsibility of operating a boat. Somehow, people think of boating as different from other motor vehicles, which may be why alcohol contributes to one in five boating deaths. Alcohol impairs your coordination and judgment, just like in a car, and the effects are worsened with sun and heat exposure.

In this case, the driver plowed into a barge that he must not have seen. Experts say navigating in that area at twilight can be tricky for anyone, due to the lighting in the area. The barge was properly lit, but the lighting has been enhanced since the accident.

It’s a sad case all the way around. But it offers a lesson as to why those life jackets should be worn (not just in the boat), and why liquor should be kept to a minimum.