The Water Patrol’s advice to Missourians to try to keep them safe hasn’t changed much over the years, but neither have the numbers for drowning and boating accidents.
The tally for Memorial Day weekend 2010 was 14 boating accidents and 3 people that drown across Missouri. Sgt. Jerry Callahan says that’s, unfortunately, about average.
“It’s not exceptionally bad weekend, but there’s always room for improvement,” Callahan said.
The three people that drown are examples, as two of the people that drown were not wearing life jackets. 19-year-old Jonathan Souza died after jumping off a cliff into a shallow area of Shoal Creek near Joplin, and 35-year-old Jean Magabokenda drown in Stephens Lake in Columbia. 44-year-old Kenneth Houk was wearing a life jacket while he was fishing, but it was not buckled. He was swept over a dam on the Sack River near Stockton Lake and was caught below the dam and drown.
Again, Callahan says, typically the story; a life jacket could have made the difference in all these cases.
“We have our life jacket laws that pertain to kids when they’re on the boats. But when you’re on a dock it’s probably more important than when you’re on a boat, because docks don’t have railings. So remember that, when you’re out with children; supervision, supervision, supervision,” Callahan said.
Some of the other highlights from the water patrol’s annual advice include checking your equipment before heading on the water, and making sure you brush up on the ‘rules of the water’ before driving a boat.
“Driving vessels is really something people aren’t as used to. They handle and steer differently than a car and we don’t have lanes in the water. So when somebody jumps in a boat they’re already working from behind because it’s just not as second nature as, say, driving a vehicle; which is something you do (year round). Particularly at the beginning of the summer, people surely aren’t as experienced as they were maybe at the end of last summer, even if they are accomplished and frequent boaters,” Callahan said.
Callahan says one of the boating accidents from the Memorial Day weekend is a good example of what you ‘should do’. Callahan says after a boat failed on the Osage River, the operator was doing work on his propeller, which ended up starting a fire. But because he had a fully charged fire extinguisher on board, he was able to prevent a larger disaster.
“The reason to have a fire extinguisher on board is that in electrical and gas fires, sometimes water can do worse, spread the fire. That’s the reason those are required,” Callahan said.
Callahan says one of the boats that came to assist the man when his boat caught fire tried to use their fire extinguisher too, but it wasn’t fully charged. He says that’s one of the most common equipment problems patrolmen find during inspections.
Callahan says the most common factor involved in fatal accidents on waterways is alcohol. He says people should treat a day or night on the water the same way they should a night on the town.
“Designated captains on boats. If alcohol is part of somebody’s weekend plans, that’s what we always encourage is designate one person as captain for that vessel so that you ensure you have a sober operator somebody who’s not going to partake in the alcohol at all,” Callahan said.
Callahan says patrolmen were encouraged by seeing many people taking heed of that advice over the Memorial Day weekend. However, the 14 boating accidents over the holiday weekend in Missouri were equal to the total from the same weekend last year.