Not Wearing a Personal Floatation Device Can be Deadly

Sail Boats
Boating Photo by Marie Mishenene
Sail Boats
Boating Photo by Marie Mishenene

THUNDER BAY – A personal floatation device can be the difference between life and death. Ontario’s boating season is just getting going, but as of May 19th there have been eight boating deaths on Ontario Provincial Police- (OPP)-patrolled waterways so far this year, which is almost three times as many as this time last year.

The OPP comment that “Tragically, none of this season’s eight victims was wearing a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) or lifejacket. Investigations into these deaths also revealed that alcohol was likely a factor in all but one of the six incidents.”

The OPP are releasing details about this year’s six boating tragedies as OPP Marine Officers prepare to hit Ontario waterways to promote Safe Boating Awareness Week (May 21- 27, 2016) with the Canadian Safe Boating Council and other marine safety partners.

Six of this year’s victims were engaged in kayaking or canoeing activities and entered the water by either falling overboard or capsizing. The two remaining incidents involved a small overloaded outboard boat that ultimately swamped, as well as a personal water craft occurrence that involved the operator falling off.

Sadly, two women and five of the six men who died in these tragic incidents were young adults between 21 and 28 years of age. Recreational boating and paddling is a great way to spend time outdoors and can be a safe, positive experience. Having safety gear on board is not only the law but can turn a sudden life-threatening ordeal into one that is survivable.

Heading into the busy boating season, the OPP wants to dispel any notion that fatal boating incidents on OPP-patrolled waterways usually involve motorized vessels.

“A significant number of the boating deaths we investigate every year involve canoes and kayaks. Because the victims were not wearing a lifejacket, the majority of them died either because they could not swim, the water was too cold or they were impaired by alcohol or drugs. I cannot stress enough how significantly a properly worn lifejacket improves your chance of survival when you are in any type of boat and suddenly find yourself in the water,” said OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, Commander of Traffic Safety and Operational Support.

The OPP is counting on everyone being on board with making it a safe boating season in Ontario. If you suspect that a person is operating any type of boat while impaired, call 9-1-1 and report them.

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