A Windsor, North Carolina (NC) family suffered a tragic accident while on a Jet Ski on the Cashie River in Windsor that resulted in the death of a Bertie County sheriff’s deputy and his 3 year old son, while his wife was hospitalized and listed in critical condition. All three individuals were wearing life jackets and appeared to have been thrown from the personal watercraft when it hit an obstacle in the water.
As a resident of a community where Jet Skis and boats are commonplace, this accident hits close to home. National statistics paint a more general picture of boating and Jet Ski safety. In 2009, the Coast Guard counted 4,730 accidents that resulted in 736 deaths and 3,358 injuries. Almost 75% of the total number of fatalities occurred as a result of drowning and the vast majority of those victims — 84 percent — were not wearing a life jacket. Of these accidents, 46 percent occurred on open motor boats, 22 percent involved personal watercraft like Jet Skis, and 14 percent involved motorboats with cabins. The numbers also show that boating safety education can have a big impact on the likelihood of an accident: only 14 percent of the total deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received that type of instruction.
With spring in full swing and Memorial Day just around the corner, the recent unfortunate accident in our neighborhood is a timely reminder of the need to practice safety when taking part in recreational watercraft activities on our state’s beautiful lakes, rivers and coastline. Regardless of your type of watercraft, you should:
- Always wear a properly fitted life jacket. Life jackets are the best preventive measure to prevent drowning and should be worn by everyone on the watercraft at all times.
- Never mix alcohol with boating. Alcohol is a contributing factor in nearly a fifth of all boating fatalities.
- Take a boat or Jet Ski safety course to learn the regulatory and statutory rules for the safe operation and navigation of your vessel. Many states actually require operators of boats to take such a course.
For the many individuals who will be taking their personal watercraft out on the water this season, there are some particular safety issues to keep in mind.
- Be familiar with the way your watercraft handles, learning its stopping distances, turning radius, power, and general maneuverability.
- Be familiar with the area in which you ride, learning the location or hazards in the water.
- Know the risks of jumping the wakes of passing boats, which is now prohibited in some states because of the risk of death.
- Never operate your watercraft after dark; it may be illegal and it is always unsafe.