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Operator attention, life jacket use critical for boating safety

Posted September 4, 2018

Safety tips offered in wake of boating fatality on Colorado River

PHOENIX — As Arizona’s boating season continues, the Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds all watergoers to practice boating safety by always wearing a life jacket and operating your watercraft at safe speeds while on the water.

The reminder comes following a deadly head-on collision between two boats north of Lake Havasu on Saturday evening. The two boats, one carrying 10 people and the other carrying six, collided between Pirates Cove and Topock Marina, sinking both boats and ejecting everyone into the water, according to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.

None were wearing life jackets and multiple people were injured. Three people died and officers from multiple agencies, including AZGFD, continue to search for one other.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families impacted by this horrible incident,” said AZGFD Boating Safety Education Program Coordinator Josh Hoffman. “The unfortunate reality is that incidents such as these are very much preventable. It is absolutely critical that all boat operators keep a proper lookout for nearby watercraft and travel at safe speeds. Additionally, everyone aboard should be wearing a life jacket at all times. Accidents can happen in a blink of an eye.”

The U.S. Coast Guard reported that in 2017 there were 4,291 recreational boating accidents, involving 658 deaths nationwide. In cases where the cause of death was known, 76 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned and of those, 84.5 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

In addition to ensuring people are wearing a life jacket, boat and watercraft owners should routinely check to see that their life jackets are in good condition, that they are the right size and fit for your passengers. On average in Arizona, life jackets should be replaced every five years.

Remember that state law requires that anyone 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times when the vessel is underway and there should be one life jacket aboard for every passenger, including canoes and kayaks.

And don’t forget that a throwable flotation device — usually a cushion with handles or a ring buoy — is required for all watercraft longer than 16 feet, excluding canoes and kayaks.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department also recommends that watercraft operators and their passengers take a free boating safety course in Phoenix and Lake Havasu City to learn the information and tips needed to stay safe while on the water. For more information on boating safety or to register for a hands-on or online safety course, visit www.azgfd.com/Education/Boating.

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