Last week, we discussed the role of alcohol in some recent recreational boating accidents, and this 2012 PSA from the US Coast Guard makes the important point that accidents happen fast on the water. The PSA stresses two other dangers that boaters need to keep in mind this summer: operator inattention and life jackets. A pair of recent stories demonstrates what can happen when people fail to heed these safety precautions.
On April 11, the Omaha World-Herald reported that 23-year-old Sean Salisbury would be spending the next two years on probation and the next three weekends in the Saunders County Jail in Wahoo, Nebraska. Salisbury was sentenced for two misdemeanor counts of negligent boat operation after a boat he was piloting last July at Woodcliff Lakes pulled an inner tube being ridden by 21-year-old Mickayla Linn too close to a parked boat, hitting it and killing the woman. Saunders County Attorney Scott Tingelhoff told the World-Herald last October that Salisbury had been drinking the day of the crash, but his blood-alcohol level was found to be within legal limits. Salisbury was ordered to complete 240 hours of community service as part of his probation, and Saunders County Judge Patrick McDermott said he hoped that some of that time would be spent talking to others about boating safety. “I expect you to take your negative experience out there and share it with others, to help prevent them from going out and making a decision as stupid as the one you made,” McDermott said.
Many Tragic Accidents on the Water Are Preventable
In Humble, Texas, KHOU-TV reported that a 54-year-old man drowned in Lake Houston after falling into the water while boating with his children on April 13. Don Monday Jr. and his two sons were on a 16-foot boat when they started to experience a mechanical issue with the watercraft. According to KHOU, Monday lost control of the boat and it began to spin in circles at about 30 mph. Monday fell into the lake as he tried to fix the mechanical issue. The two boys aboard the boat, ages 8 and 13, were wearing life jackets, but Monday himself reportedly did not. Houston Police Department Lake Patrol Sergeant Billy Ray Wilburn told the Lake Houston Observer that this was “a tragic accident that possibly could have been prevented.” Texas law requires children 12 years old and younger to wear a life jacket at all times while on a watercraft, but there is no law mandating that adults wear a life jacket. Wilburn, however, said he highly recommends it.
“At the very least, you always want to have your life vest ready and accessible,” Houston Police Department Lake Patrol Sergeant Billy Ray Wilburn told the Lake Houston Observer. “It won’t do any good to have it stored under a seat. It needs to be where you can reach it in a hurry. Life and death are just a split-second apart. Something can happen at any point in time. It’s no different from riding in a car.”
Latti & Anderson LLP has more than a half-century of experience representing individuals in all types of accidents on the water, and you can find additional information about maritime law accidents by visiting our website. If you sustained injuries or your loved one was killed in a boat accident, contact our firm at (800) 392-6072 to schedule a free consultation or fill out the form on this page to have our Boston maritime attorneys review your case.
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#DidYouKnow USCG 2012 Life Jacket Wear Rate Study found powerboats 16-21 feet in length still show relatively low wear rates (5.0% in 2012).
— Latti & Anderson LLP (@Latti_Anderson) April 25, 2013