Today is the first anniversary of the tragic Duck Boat Accident which happened on the Delaware river on the Philadelphia waterfront. The result of the investigation was that the Tug that ran down the Duck Boat did not have a proper lookout. As I recall from the investigation, one of the crew onboard the Tug was asleep and another was on a cell phone. The Tug could not, without proper lookout, see what was in front of the barge they were towing in an on-the-hip towing configuration.
Now that we are in the middle of boating season in much of the country, one would think by now that all safety issues had been covered and all boaters would have learned something. Fortunately or unfortunately each and every day I have the opportunity to view many recreational and commercial boaters operating on the Delaware River. More likely than not I am witness to many “common sense violations” that could and eventually will end in yet another tragedy.
I recently witnessed an “accident just waiting to happen” aboard a small (19-22′) recreational bow-rider runabout. The boaters were having an exciting day on the water pulling passengers on various floating devices. At one point when a passenger was attempting to untie a large inflatable float which had been secured close to the towing vessel the passenger went over the side sans life jacket. Apparently one of the other passengers notified the driver who immediately made a hard turn to return to the person in the water. The speed at which the boat approached made it immediately apparent that the boat was still under power as it made its approach.
Each year boat propellers are a leading cause of boating accidents. In many cases, the victims were in the water and near the stern of the vessel.
Passengers moving around a boat or improperly seated may fall overboard when the vessel is moving too fast for prevailing conditions. People can be ejected from a boat for a variety of reasons including, a collision with another boat, hitting a submerged object, rogue waves, sudden acceleration/deceleration in speed or simply loosing your balance by not paying attention to the old addage “have one hand for the boat and the other for yourself.”
Contributing factors to propeller strikes accidents are operator inexperience, incompetence, negligence, and operating under the influence of alcohol or other substances. Bow and transom riding are also inherently dangerous.
You should turn the engine off and keep the boat tied to the dock while passengers are boarding or disembarking. The vessel operator should alert passengers prior to speed change or when large waves are imminent. While a boat is underway everyone should be seated and wearing a Coast Guard approved life jacket.
Steps to take for a Man Overboard situation
- A person seeing someone fall overboard should shout “Man Overboard Port or Starboard side (left or right will do)”
- Throw a life ring, life jacket or other floatable device to the person.
- Turn the boat toward the side the person fell overboard. This pushes the prop away from the person in the water.
- Circle around keeping the individual in sight.
- Slow down. Turn the engine off at least a boat length away to avoid propeller strike
- Bring the person aboard and render first aid as needed, checking for additional injuries.
Common Sense Safety will continue tomorrow with another “hair-raising” eye-witness account.