Tragically, three of this year’s seven fatal boating incidents involved multiple fatalities. As is the case every year, the majority of these deaths were preventable. OPP investigators revealed that nine of the victims were not wearing a personal floatation device (PFD) or lifejacket and that alcohol was a factor in at least three of the incidents. One of the victims has yet to be recovered and the OPP’s search and recovery efforts are ongoing.
The most recent marine incident this week was particularly tragic, with three men losing their lives. The OPP investigation revealed that the three victims had more than one risk factor working against their safety. Alcohol was found to be a contributing factor as were lack of safety equipment and cold water conditions.
The 11 victims are all men between the ages of 18 and 74. All the vessels involved have been small boats, less than six metres, with two being canoes. Four of the incidents involved capsizing, while one was swamped by waves and another veered suddenly, ejecting both occupants.
The OPP is dismayed by the consistent contributing factors it is seeing again this year. “Our officers have come to expect that when they recover deceased boating victims, the overwhelming majority of them will not be wearing a PFD or lifejacket. This year’s marine tragedies demonstrate once again that, when not worn, a PFD or lifejacket is useless safety equipment. Boating incidents come up very suddenly and afford no time to reach for a PFD let alone put it on before tragedy strikes,” said Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, Commander, OPP Traffic Safety and Operational Support.
While six of this year’s 11 boating victims were the boats operator, five were passengers..
Whether you are a boat operator, a passenger being offered a ride or a paddler, the spike in boating fatalities this year serves as a harsh wake-up call to everyone that heads out on the water that they need to take responsibility for their own safety.
“Don’t let anyone put you in an unsafe situation on the water. If you are a passenger, ask for a PFD or lifejacket before you head out in the vessel and wear it. If the operator does not provide one, do not go out onto the water with them. If you are already on the water and the operator’s behaviour is putting your safety at risk, speak up and tell them you don’t feel safe. If their behaviour doesn’t stop, ask them to take you back to shore. If it is clear from their actions that they have no regard for your welfare, you will need to take charge of your own safety,” said Chief Superintendent Don Bell, Commander, OPP Highway Safety Division.
The OPP is reminding the public that if they suspect a boat operator has been consuming alcohol, to call 9-1-1 to report them. The OPP believes that more lives can be saved on Ontario roads, waterways and trails if the public plays an active role and is in a position to safely eliminate or reduce the risk of a dangerous situation created by a driver, boater or off-road vehicle (ORV) operator who fails to do so themselves.