Coast Guard promotes boating safety
HUNTINGTON — Rising temperatures have Tri-State residents undocking their recreational vessels and heading out to enjoy the warmer weather on the Ohio River, but boaters should ensure they are playing safe before casting off.
Cmdr. Lee Boone, commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Huntington, spoke during the May monthly Cabell/Wayne
County Homeland Security Group meeting Tuesday at the Tri-State Fire Academy in Huntington. He focused primarily on the importance of life jackets in boat safety.
“Drowning remains the No. 1 cause of recreational death,” Boone said. “An excuse we hear is people saying they don’t need life jackets because they are good swimmers, but what if you are incapacitated or wrapped or snagged by something? (Coast Guard personnel) are good swimmers, and even we wear them.”
Life jackets just get in the way is another excuse Boone said his boarding officers hear from boaters, but he said life jackets have come a long way in recent years, and boaters need not only wear one because it’s safe, but because for some it’s the law. According to the West Virginia
Department of Natural Resources, anyone younger than 12 years old must wear a personal floatation device while on a recreational watercraft.Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Raymond Ortiz, MSU Huntington boarding officer, said the No. 1 problem he notices when he boards recreational vessels is lack of life jackets.
“Out of 10 boardings, it’s probably seven boats that don’t have the proper safety equipment for children,” Ortiz said. “I know I would not let my child anywhere near water without a life jacket.”
Boaters also need to ensure they have life jackets that fit children. Ortiz said he has run into situations where boaters technically had enough life jackets, but a child can easily slip out of an an adult jacket after hitting the water.
Another problem Boone and Ortiz said the Coast Guard runs into often while patrolling is those boating under the influence. Alcohol use is involved in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities, according to the Boating Safety Resource Center.
“It is not fun recovering a dead body because someone decided they did not want to have anyone onboard sober,” Ortiz said. “This is something I take very seriously.”
Boone said there is something about boats that sometimes make people think they can be lax about safety, but they could not be more wrong.
He said it is difficult to drive in water, and the Huntington area’s heavy commercial traffic can be difficult to navigate for those not paying attention.
Boone and Ortiz were invited to speak in recognition of National Safe Boating Week, which runs from May 17-23. For more information on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.
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