What Is The Main Cause Of Fatal Boating Accidents?

June 09 2017 | Personal Injury Lawyer Blog
  • Kentucky Dam Accidental Lawyers


    A boating incident with unclear causes leaves two dead

    More questions than answers

    Two Chester County residents, Casey Cox, 32, and Michael Ray Terry, 69, died on Wednesday, April 26, when their aluminum flat-bottom boat was sucked through the spillway of Pickwick Dam on the lake side. Due to strong currents, the bodies were recovered several miles downstream from the dam. The exact causes of the accident were initially unknown and still have not been reported, even though an investigation is underway. The moment it went over the edge was captured by security cameras. According to Melvin Martin, Hardin County Fire Chief and Emergency Management Agency Director, the boat capsized before going through the spill. It is also confirmed that at the time of the accident, the waters were turbulent even above the dam because the tailwater was spinning and generators were operating, creating conditions difficult to maneuver that may have contributed to the tragedy. It has been established that at least one of the men was wearing a life vest, although it has to be noted that a flotation device may not help if a person is drawn under into the extremely violent currents on the downstream side of the dam. Hardin County officials say that the dam is equipped with signs advising about potential dangers as well as with the standard light and sound warning system that alerts boaters when the dam is about to be opened. However, the county also suggests boaters exercise extreme caution while navigating the waters near the dam, especially now since due to the recent floods, the waters are much more turbulent. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, TWRA, also advises boaters not to sail beyond the danger buoys. Even though the water may look safe on the surface, when the dam is opened and the generators are functioning, there are strong underwater currents that small boats are not equipped to handle.

    Obey the warning signs and stay safe

    According to the Recreational Boating Statistics report, released last year by the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety of the US Coast Guard, dams were one of the primary contributing factors to boating accidents and casualties in 2015, with 10 dam-related accidents that have claimed 12 lives. The Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA, does not discourage boating within a safe distance from a dam, but it does note that those are inherently dangerous waters and advises to get acquainted with warning system at dams.  TVA informs that there are four basic types of warning devices installed at Tennessee dams: horns, strobe lights, warning signs, and electronic spillway strobe lights and horns. Whenever a boater notices any of those devices working, they should move away at once, no matter if they find themselves on the upstream or downstream side of the dam. The officials say that a boat crew will have five minutes to leave the area after the warning systems go off; after that time, the dam opens, which results in strong current on both its sides. It is also essential to remember that dam release schedule can change without notice, so attention to the warning signs is indispensable at all times.

    TVA also advises to always follow some general, simple safety rules when boating. One of them is never to anchor a boat below a dam. The reason is that when a dam is released, the waters roil up suddenly which can result in capsizing. For the same reason, it is advisable to always leave the motor running – in case of any emergency, the boat will be able to leave the dangerous area faster and more easily. Furthermore, fishing below the dam is safe only during low-flow periods. Boaters should also remember to always wear a life vest.

    Preventable tragedies

    The boating statistics report mentioned earlier states that, in 2015, there was a total of 4,158 recreational boating accidents which resulted in 626∗ deaths. Many of those accidents and fatalities could have been prevented. For example, 85% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. Moreover, alcohol use has been listed as the leading factor in 17% of deaths, when the cause of the accident was known. Thus, if going boating, fishing, or swimming, one should plan the event thoroughly and strictly follow all the safety precautions as well as pay attention to warning signs in order to avoid hazardous areas. In this way, the activity that for many is an indispensable part of the summer fun can be enjoyed responsibly and without taking any unnecessary risks.


    If you’ve been injured on a boat in any way, contact a personal injury lawyer immediately. We’re here for you 24/7 at 800-800-4600.

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