The boating season is underway again. Hampton Roads, northeastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks offer many opportunities to get out on the water over the summer months. However, the number of Hampton Roads boating accidents also increases over the summer months.
Boating accidents are not as prevalent as car, truck and motorcycle accidents. However, when things go wrong at marinas and on the water, they can prove to be serious.
In 2012, an explosion on a powerboat at the Lynnhaven Boatel in Virginia Beach injured several people, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
Three people aboard a boat and two marina employees who helped extinguish the fire were taken to a local hospital and several others were injured.
The Virginia Beach Fire Department concluded a buildup of gas fumes led to the explosion. The fumes ignited when the boaters tried to restart the boat’s engine.
The boating industry has many safety protocols and procedures. In the case of the Lynnhaven Boatel explosion, the fire department spokesman pointed out the normal protocol for mariners is to run the blower on the boat for at least four minutes after fueling or stalling to release any potential build-up of fumes. The boat’s blower was switched off when the explosion took place.
In 2016, a marina fire in Urbanna, Virginia claimed two lives and destroyed more than 50 vessels, highlighting the many hazards at marinas where combustible materials are often stored.
Other common boating accidents are caused by inattention or drunken boating. Some boaters fail to realize the same drunk driving laws that apply to the roads are relevant to the Lynnhaven River, the Chesapeake Bay or the Elizabeth River.
If you are operating a vessel with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of 0.10 or above, you are more than 10 times as likely to be killed in an accident, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
As well as recreational boating accidents, there is a whole are of law devoted to maritime accidents at sea which John Cooper of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers describes in this video.
Many boating accidents occur on jet skis (personal watercraft). Jet skis are often operated at high speeds and there is little time to take evasive action if you get in trouble.
In a report in the late 1990s, the National Transportation Safety Board criticized the basic design of all personal watercraft, highlighting basic flaws.
Tom Ebro, president of Aquatic Risk Management in Florida told In Motion Magazine:
“Personal watercraft have no braking mechanism. They coast to a stop, and while coasting, there is no turning ability. What makes personal watercraft so ultra-dangerous is the fact that it will not steer when you suddenly have a surprise and let off the throttle.”
Jet skis lack a rudder. When the throttle is off, a speeding jet ski is a bit like a car on ice. There’s no way to control it.
Although speed is linked to deaths on the water, it is worth noting about 300 people lose their lives every year in canoes and kayaks.
Kayakers, paddle boarders, and canoeists may get into trouble when they misjudge the tides and die of hypothermia. Even in the summer months, the water temperature in Hampton Roads can be low.
If you are going out on the water, make sure to follow basic safety precautions. Always wear a life vest and tell a family member where you are going if you are setting out alone. If you are swimming off Virginia Beach, Hampton or elsewhere makes sure not to go out when red flags are flying. Every year, we read about unnecessary Hampton Roads boating accidents. Please be safe on the water.
If you or a loved one was hurt due to the actions of another boater, please call our Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys at (757) 455-0077.