Thursday, July 3, 2014

TOP STORY>>Critical days of summer: water/boat safety

By Senior Airman Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Airmen and families at Little Rock Air Force Base are looking for ways to stay cool this summer. One of the most popular ways to beat the heat without remaining indoors is water activities.

Whether picnicking at a pool, rafting down a river, lounging by a lake or sailing on the sea, risk management is a must.

Knowing how to swim is important but should not be one’s only tool for safety while enjoying the pleasures of water play.

During the Critical Days of Summer’s Boating and Personal Water Craft week, remember there is power in numbers. Carry extra safety gear, like life vests, and always designate a friend to remain sober.

An Airman from Little Rock Air Force Base lost his stepfather in a boating accident that could have been avoided if these tips were practiced.

“It was August 2008 and my stepdad and mom took their boat down the intercostal waterway in Palm Beach, Florida, to go fishing,” said the Airman. “After fishing, they stopped at a bar to have a few drinks. My mom decided to have someone drive her home.”

By the time the Airman’s stepfather headed back home on their center console fishing boat, the daylight was gone.

“My stepdad headed up the marina intoxicated, alone and accompanied by the dark night and choppy ocean,” said the Airman. “Three hours after he left the bar, the Coast Guard called our house and informed me and my mom that they found our boat spinning in circles with no passengers.”

Police, rescue helicopters and boats searched for the Airman’s stepdad. Three and a half hours later, the Airman’s stepfather was found washed ashore, deceased.

According to the report, the Airman’s stepfather fell off the boat. Because it was no longer being steered, it began to spin, hitting him in the head. He was knocked unconscious and drowned at 58 years old.

“Water activities and alcohol don’t mix, especially if you’re alone,” said the Airman. “If you’re boating at high speeds over an ocean or river, wear a life jacket even if you know how to swim.”

Even if someone is partying with a large group of people, at least one person should be the designated driver whether on land or on a boat.

“A lot of accidents can be prevented by having a safety plan,” said the Airman. “My stepdad may still be here if he made different decisions.”

No one ever expects to have an unfortunate incident. Taking a few extra minutes to make sure there’s a safety plan before you head out on a trip should be a vital part of trip planning. Doing so could be the difference between life and death.

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