Two recent tragic New York boating accidents have me blogging about boating safety again.
First, a cabin cruiser carrying 27 passengers capsized off Long Island on July 4th, killing three children. The boat, traveling in darkness, was carrying an extended family from watching a fireworks display near Oyster Bay. On the trip home, another boat’s wake apparently hit it, causing it to suddenly flip. Some witnesses from other boats say the boat took a sharp left turn before it flipped, so the steering might have been a cause, too.
But the boat may also have been overloaded. The problem with boats this size is that they usually don’t have any signage indicating a passenger limit. There is a general rule of thumb, though, for figuring out how many passengers a boat can handle: multiply the boat’s length by its width and divide by 15. It is not yet clear whether this boat was “overloaded” by that calculation, but 27 people on this 36-foot boat does seem excessive.
It is also not yet clear whether the kids who died were wearing life jackets.
Closer to home was an Oneida Lake boating accident carrying three adult brothers and their father. Only one survived, the boat operator, one of the brothers, who admits he got distracted by fireworks, wasn’t watching ahead, and hit a concrete channel marker, causing all to be thrown overboard. None were wearing life jackets.
Can you imagine the “survivor’s guilt” that this poor boat operator, brother, and son, must be feeling? He escaped with just an injured shoulder, but his real, lifelong injuries are all “internal”; grief, guilt and remorse. He must be beating himself up over and over again with thoughts like these: “if only I had not gotten distracted by those fireworks”!; “If only I had been looking ahead”!
Fellow New York boaters, what can we learn from these tragedies? (1) Figure out your boat’s passenger limit and stick to it; (2) always wear life jackets when the boat is moving; (3) travel slowly and cautiously at night; (4) if you are operating the boat, especially at night, do not get distracted, always keep your eyes gazing from side to side and in front of you.
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