Each boating accident attorney at our firm has continually stressed the importance of wearing life jackets while out in the open waters. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, even to the most experienced and careful boater. Another operator who is speeding, distracted or under the influence can potentially collide with a vessel or individual on a personal water craft, but even mechanical failure can occur without warning, leading boaters to suffer debilitating injuries.
A life jacket acts the same way as a seat belt. If a motorist is involved in a car crash, their seat belt is the only thing that will prevent them from flying through the windshield and suffering a potentially fatal injury. Similarly, if a boating accident victim is thrown into the water and is badly injured or unconscious, the only thing that can potentially save them is a life jacket.
Most states require boaters and all individuals engaging in water sports or activities to wear life jackets, but there are many that do not. There are also individuals who ignore life jacket regulations and suffer terrible fates as a result. Sadly, one South Carolina woman’s failure to wear a life jacket may have cost her her life following a tragic accident in Charleston this week.
According to Coast Guard authorities in Charleston, a 66-year-old Conway woman died Tuesday after the vessel she and her husband were on capsized in Georgetown County. An autopsy performed on the victim showed she drowned. There were no signs of foul play or trauma, so it is quite possible that she was unable to stay afloat and that is what led to her untimely demise.
Coast Guard officials explain one of their teams in Georgetown was out patrolling the area when they discovered the couple’s boat at around 11 a.m. The victims had been fishing in an 18-foot vessel that had been anchored near a lighthouse in Winyah Bay when it appears as though the anchor line got caught in the boat’s propeller. When the husband tried to lift the engine to release the line, the vessel capsized.
The man was able to get himself to safety, but when he went looking for his wife, he could not find any sign of her. According to officials, the woman became trapped under the boat when it capsized.
It took Coast Guard crews about 20 minutes to recover her body, which isn’t a long time at all. Some victims have been left stranded in the open waters for hours or even days on end and have been able to survive because of their life jackets. Had the woman been wearing a floatation device, perhaps she would be alive today.
It’s a miracle her husband survived, because he wasn’t wearing a life jacket either. Our boating accident lawyers don’t know if the woman did not know how to swim or was knocked unconscious; however, these are both possible scenarios where life jackets may save lives.
We cannot stress how important life jackets are to the safety of boaters and water lovers around the world. Whether in shallow waters or not and whether an individual is in extremely good physical shape, an accident can happen and if it does, a life jacket can keep a victim’s head above the water for as long as it takes for rescue teams to find them.
Life jackets are neither expensive nor difficult to come by. It would be ideal if all U.S. states were to impose a mandatory life jacket law. South Carolina, for example, only requires children under 12 years of age on Class A boats (vessels under 16 feet in length) and personal water craft users to wear life jackets.
Far too many people have lost their lives in boating accidents because they weren’t wearing a life jacket. Our firm urges all boaters to exercise the greatest caution and to consider the potential risks of not wearing a personal floatation device. There is truly no reason why anyone who is out in the open waters should not be wearing a life jacket. We hope all water-goers will keep their safety and those of their loved ones in mind and always carry life jackets while out at sea.