My hometown paper, the Geneva Finger Lakes Times, reports today on a boating accident that happened in Seneca Lake this past weekend. A 16-year-old Penn Yan girl was out on the Lake tubing when her hands got entangled in the ski rope that tethered the tube to the back of the boat. She suffered serious injuries to both hands. Surgeons at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester were unable to save one of her thumbs, despite several surgeries.
As the father of a teenager, I feel terrible for this kid, and her family.
You may think this accident was a “fluke”, but I don’t. Ski ropes can kill, main or severely injure, if they are not properly tied, secured or stored. Just a few years ago the Finger Lakes boating accident lawyers of Michaels & Smolak handled a case where a ski rope that was partially in the water, but mostly coiled up on the boat deck, got wound up in the boat’s propeller, caught our client’s leg, and dragged her from the boat, into the water, and into the propeller. The doctors had to amputate her leg below the knee. We were able to get her a $1.5 million dollar settlement (but the money’s never enough!) from the insurance carrier for the boat owner who had failed to properly secure the rope.
So ski rope accidents, like most boating accidents, are not usually “flukes”. “Flukes” are by definition unavoidable one-time events. Most boating accidents are avoidable and recurring. They are most often the result of a failure to follow safe boating practices.
Ski rope mishaps are not, however, on the “top five” boating-accident list. That dubious honor goes to: collisions with other watercraft, collisions with fixed objects, falls overboard, skier accidents, and capsizing.
Responsible boaters can take a few simple steps to avoid these injuries and accidents: Always wear a life jacket. Take a boating safety class like the ones being offered free in Cayuga County. Don’t drink if you are operating a boat. Keep vigilant behind the wheel. Slow down near the shore and other vessels. And — hey — let’s learn from this recent Seneca Lake boating accident — pay attention to that ski rope! Is it properly tied? If not being used, is it properly secured? Are you instructing your guests to keep their hands and feet away from the ski rope?
Have a safe boating summer in the Finger Lakes everyone!