STORIES THE VIEW UPSTREAM By: Keith 'Catfish' Sutton 3 Important Life-Saving Boating Rules to Always Follow A day out on the water shouldn't be life-threatening – make boat safety a priority by following three simple rules Each year, scores of people die unnecessarily in boating accidents. Don't let it happen to you or your loved ones. (U.S. Coast Guard photo) It didn’t have to happen. The 71-year-old man intended to enjoy a day of trout fishing while on vacation. He rented a flat-bottom boat at a local dock and headed upstream to fish. A life jacket lay beside him, but for some reason, he chose not to wear it. It was a fatal mistake. Swift water roared through the chute where the man dropped anchor. As the anchor rope tightened, the icy water of the trout river rushed over the gunwales, flooding the boat and causing it to capsize. Panic overwhelmed the man. He grabbed the life jacket and clasped it to his chest, but he never made it to shore. An employee of the trout dock found the man’s lifeless body later that day. It didn’t have to happen. He intended to enjoy a day of boating on a big Corps of Engineers reservoir. At some point, the 52-year-old man – we’ll call him Mr. Smith – and the operator of another boat decided to race. Mr. Smith had more than 500 hours experience operating a boat, but he wasn’t wearing a life jacket. Any luck he’d once had was about to run out. A witness says Mr. Smith was traveling 80 miles per hour when he hit some big waves. His boat rocketed from the water, did a 360-degree side-to-side roll and landed upright. During the roll, Mr. Smith was ejected from the boat. His pelvis was crushed, and his aorta was damaged. He died at the scene. It didn’t have to happen. The two men, each in their own ski boat, intended to enjoy some time cruising on the lake. Problem was, neither man was watching the water ahead. One failed to yield, and the boats collided. The operator of the vessel that failed to yield was struck by the second craft and suffered severe head trauma that caused his death. The other driver was tossed over the boats upon impact. He survived with a broken right shoulder, cuts and bruises. It didn’t have to happen. The two women and two teenage girls intended to enjoy a day water-skiing and tubing on a lake not far from their home. The 46-year-old mother, the boat’s operator, was towing her 16- and 18-year-old daughters on a tube. Her 42-year-old sister was facing to the rear so she could observe. The boat, equipped with a 60-horsepower outboard, was borrowed from a family friend. The women were unfamiliar with its controls and handling characteristics. A kill-switch that would have stopped the motor if the operator fell overboard was not in use. The ladies, each wearing a ski belt but not an approved life jacket, were doing circles and figure-eights while bouncing the tube over their own wakes. The fun soon ended, however, and the horror began. The boat tipped hard to the left upon striking a wake, and the operator and passenger fell overboard. The propeller cut the tow rope. The boat, now unoccupied but still at full throttle, began circling the four people. While the women screamed for help, they were forced to constantly swim away to avoid being hit. When the 18-year-old tried swimming out of the circle, she was struck by the boat’s propeller. The vessel zigzagged wildly, then struck the mother, too. After hitting both victims, the boat turned and starting circling a few hundred feet away. People on a nearby party barge noticed the commotion, motored over and pulled the four females from the water. The mother and her 18-year-old daughter later died from their injuries. These are a few of the hundreds of boating accidents reported last year. Each story is tragic, but no more so than many other mishaps that also could have been prevented. A 54-year-old man falls overboard while fishing and drowns. He is not wearing a life jacket. A 58-year-old man perishes the same way while running a trotline. A 44-year-old female riding a jet-ski drowns after being struck by an overhanging limb. A 38-year-old man drowns after falling from a personal water craft. He is intoxicated, and his life jacket is improperly secured. A 42-year-old man, also under the influence of alcohol, drowns after falling from a boat. He has no life jacket. A 55-year-old man tumbles into the water while fishing with his 8-year-old grandson. The boy tries to rescue his grandfather, who is not wearing a life jacket, but his attempts are in vain. The grandfather perishes. The stories go on and on, a litany of grievous disasters. Such accidents do not have to happen, however. Most can be prevented if you will do just three simple things every time you go boating. Wear a life jacket and kill switch. Avoid alcohol consumption and drug use. Operate your boat or personal water craft safely. It’s as simple as that, folks. Really. Read them again. Wear a life jacket and kill switch. Avoid alcohol consumption and drug use. Operate your boat or personal water craft safely. Please, boat safely this season. The life you save may be someone you love.