It wasn’t the overturned sailboat that ended the 12-year-old boy’s life. It was the raft trip back to the dock.
As ABC News reports, three children were taking a sailboat lesson on Tuesday at Long Island’s Centerport Yacht Club in New York. The trio was engaged in a “man overboard” drill where the sailboat was intentionally capsized so the students could practice what to do in an emergency.Screenshot/CBS New York
All three of the children were wearing life jackets, and two of them remained on the boat. The third, however, needed to be rescued from the water by the sailing instructor.
According to CBS New York, the 18-year-old instructor was in a Zodiac inflatable boat that was equipped with a small outboard motor. The instructor raced to the boy in the water, pulled him into the Zodiac, and turned to shore.
However, as they drove to shore, the boy fell out of the Zodiac and hit the propeller. Sgt. James Scimone told CBS New York:
“He became entangled in the propeller, causing massive injuries to the chest.”
The instructor pulled the boy back into the Zodiac and began CPR. The boy was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The yacht club has been a part of the community for 70 years, and many were shocked and saddened by the news. Sheila Wexler told CBS New York:
“I feel terrible for the boy, his parents and grandparents. What a tragedy. Who would think something like this could happen from a sailing lesson?”
Police say the teenage instructor was “traumatized” by the accident. Suffolk County Police Sgt. Scimone recalled:
“He’s in shock, he’s very upset, his family is with him.”
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2016 there were 171 boating accidents in which at least one person was hit by a propeller, resulting in 24 deaths and 175 injuries. The typical propeller only needs one-tenth of a second to travel from the average person’s head to their toes and can make 160 impacts in one second.
In addition to considering safety devices like sensors, propeller guards, shut-off switches, or propulsion alternatives, the Coast Guard offers a few safety tips when it comes to boat propellers:
- Before starting the engine, walk around the boat and check to be sure no one is in the water near the boat.
- Do not start the engine until after you’ve accounted for all of your passengers.
- Do not allow people to board the boat from the water while the engine is on or idling.
- Make sure passengers know about propeller dangers, their location, and any propeller warning labels on the boat.
- Do not enter swimming zones and be careful in congested areas.
- Take extra care near boats towing inflatables or skiers.
- Do not allow passengers to sit on the gunwale, transom, bow, seat backs, or anywhere they might fall overboard.
- Have passengers sit in designed occupant positions. Take water conditions into account and insist passengers use handholds while underway.
- Watch children carefully.
- Establish rules for using ladders, swim platforms, and seating. (To the extent possible, passengers should stay seated at all times.)
- If someone falls overboard, stop immediately. Slowly turn the boat around, keeping the person in sight as you approach. (Have someone continuously monitor the person in the water.) Turn the engine off before trying to bring the person to safety.
- Never put the boat in reverse in order to save someone in the water. Circle around instead.
For more about boating safety courses in your area, visit the Coast Guard website.