Coast Guard reminds boaters to exercise precaution in light of recent deaths

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Over the course of the last month, Coast Guard personnel responded to at least six separate accidents involving personal watercraft resulting in six deaths within the Fifth District spanning from Central New Jersey to North Carolina.

One person was killed and another injured Monday after a jet ski and a 28-foot boat collided about three miles west of Indian River Inlet, Del. The common factors in the accidents include boating under the influence, lack of wearing life jackets, and poor execution of safe boating practices.
The Coast Guard strongly urges boaters to wear life jackets, and refrain from drinking and driving personal watercraft. In addition, do not overload boats with excess passengers and take extra care navigating at night and in unfamiliar waters.

“Boaters should take advantage of the free vessel safety check provided by experienced members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary to ensure personal watercraft are safe to operate,” said Lt. Scott Murphy, command duty officer for the Atlantic Area and Fifth District. “However, safe boating is the responsibility of those operating personal watercraft.”

Almost three-quarters of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, nearly 90% were not wearing a life jacket. It is the law on all federal waters including the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, tributaries and coastal waters. Also, children under 13 must wear an appropriate Coast Guard-approved life jacket, unless they are below decks or within an enclosed cabin.

  • The most frequently reported boating accident are collisions with another vessel, so it is important to maintain a safe speed, post a lookout and ensure all navigation lights work. Spotlights can be very helpful, and ensure all safety gear is readily available and life jackets are worn.
  • The use of alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits boating under the influence. This law pertains to all boats from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships.
  • Boating under the influence affects vision, including decreased peripheral vision, reduced depth perception, decreased night vision, poor focus, and difficulty in distinguishing colors such as red and green. Inner ear disturbances can make it impossible for a person who falls into the water to distinguish up from down. Furthermore, alcohol creates a physical sensation of warmth, which may prevent a person in cold water from getting out before hypothermia sets in.

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