July 1, 2012

While many have already put the memories of the recent Fourth of July celebration behind them, we thought it would be appropriate to discuss the fatal boat accident that happened this Fourth. It’s still summertime, and many people in Oregon and Washington are still on the water. This tragedy illustrates a very important point: boating safety rules, such as those limiting the number of passengers and requiring adequate safety equipment, are there for a reason. You never expect the sudden, catastrophic incident that puts your craft in danger, which is why you need to follow boating safety rules at all times.

On the evening of July Fourth, a 34-foot yacht, built in 1984, was carrying 27 passengers — friends and family who had gone out on the water to enjoy a fireworks show off the cost of Long Island. According to experts, that size craft should only be carrying 6 to 7 adults, or an absolute maximum of 15. The yacht was so severely overcrowded that it was simply an accident waiting to happen.

It is not clear exactly what caused the boat to capsize. The skipper says that a wave came upon the boat, causing it to spin and overturn, throwing most of the passengers into the water. The boat eventually capsized and sank to the ocean floor 60 feet below.

The boat accident was sudden, the night was dark, and the water was crowded with other vessels out to view the fireworks. One man who was there that night estimated there were at least 1,000 vessels on the water. Conditions were calm until around 10:30 p.m., when a storm rolled in, but there was no indication that the weather was bad enough to capsize a boat.

The executive director of an area sailing school said he was alarmed by the number of people aboard the yacht. “It’s just asking for a situation where things can go wrong and compound on themselves,” he told reporters.

Rescue operations were already hampered by darkness and the sheer number of vessels in the area. It is unclear whether additional personal floatation devices had been provided for the extra passengers. Many of the other boaters in the area worked alongside rescue workers to help, however, and most of the passengers were rescued.

Three children, ages 8, 11 and 12, however, were trapped inside the cabin when the yacht overturned and sank. Tragically, they did not survive.

Overcrowding and the possible lack of safety equipment did not cause the boat accident, although the number of passengers might have contributed to the yacht’s instability. The point is that boaters who ignore safety rules put themselves and others on the water at serious risk. Please make a habit of obeying boating safety rules to prevent a tragedy like this one.

Source: USA Today, “Boating experts say NY yacht overcrowded; 3 dead,” Associated Press, July 5, 2012


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