Officials Warn About Boating Safety After Rash Of Deadly Accidents

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — This is shaping up to be a deadly summer for boating accidents.  Twelve people have died, three just this past weekend.  Alex DeMetrick reports that’s rapidly approaching the total number of boating deaths for all of last year.

For Natural Resources police, summer is always busy.  But this summer is different.

“We’ve had hot, dry weather.  People are turning to the water to cool off and, with increased activity, we’re going to have an increase in boating accidents, which we are seeing,” said Natural Resources Police Sgt. Art Windemuth.

This past weekend, a boat capsized in the Elk River and a man drowned.  At the C&D Canal, another man died jumping from his boat to the dock.  On the Bush River, a man crabbing fell overboard and drowned.

“That brought us up to 12 for the year,” Windemuth said.

For all of 2010, 13 died.

Police routinely check boaters’ safety equipment, which is required by law.  So is Safe Boat Operation, though not everyone obeys.

“I was out here with my granddaughter on Saturday and someone come down here, must have been doing 50 miles per hour and, of course, that creates a wake and someone could have been thrown off,” said Dennis Callahan.


The first thing police check for are life vests.  Having one on board is not the same as wearing one.

“People believe if they have it readily accessible on the boat, then they’re safe, but a lot of the time when you end up in an accident and fall into the water, you panic.  It’s very difficult to get a life jacket on,” said NRP Boating Safety Coordinator Julie Brown.

Pretending to panic, Brown shows just how difficult.  But in nearly every drowning, life jackets were not work.

And it’s certain to happen again.

“Our busiest weekend is the Fourth of July,” Windemuth said.  “Our busiest month is July.”

When tens of thousands of boats head for the bay and its rivers.

While Maryland law gives adults the option of wearing a life jacket, all children 13 and under must wear them.

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