As this long winter and cool spring finally come to an end, we all can expect to see more boaters out on our waterways. Here in the Northeastern North Carolina (NC) and Southeastern Virginia (VA) area, boating is an extremely popular activity, both for business and recreational purposes. It never hurts to be reminded of what can happen if one isn’t careful. For example, a 26-year-old Murrells Inlet, S.C. man was recently killed in a boating incident near Bird Island, S.C. According to the Horry County Deputy Coroner, the victim died from massive trauma from being struck by a boat and its propellers.
Emergency responders were called to the area after receiving a report that a man was missing in the water near the North Carolina border. Members of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), Horry County police, Horry County’s dive team and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officers spent several hours searching the waters for the victim. A spokesperson from the USCG said five people were on the shore when their pontoon boat began drifting off. One of the women told the USCG that her fiancé went into the water to try and retrieve the boat. She said she turned around for a moment, and when she looked back, he was gone.
The U.S. Coast Guard annual recreational boating safety reports reveal that 28 to 47 people are killed annually because of “struck by boat motor or propeller” accidents in the United States. These reports also indicate that there are between 185 to 265 accidents reported to the U.S. Coast Guard annually where the victim is injured due to a boat motor or propeller strike. The Coast Guard classifies boating accidents as a sequence of events. For example, one boat strikes another boat, causing a person to fall into the water and that person is struck by a propeller. The accident would be logged in as primary event (one boat hits another), secondary event (person falls off boat) and tertiary event (person struck by propeller). In most of the incidents included in the boating safety report, the propeller strike was either a secondary or tertiary event.
Even though this is a relatively infrequent occurrence, a reminder of just how deadly boating accidents can be is something important to hear before we all take to the waterways this summer.