Boating accidents in Okanagan stern reminder to play safe

BOATsmart reps promoting safety on the water after several incidents in the Okanagan.

ashonna McDougall sits at the wheel of the BOATsmart vessel during the organization’s recent stop in Penticton which included a visit to the Canadian Tire location. The group is currently finishing up a coast-to-coast tour promoting safe boating and encouraging people to get their pleasure craft operators license.

ashonna McDougall sits at the wheel of the BOATsmart vessel during the organization’s recent stop in Penticton which included a visit to the Canadian Tire location. The group is currently finishing up a coast-to-coast tour promoting safe boating and encouraging people to get their pleasure craft operators license.

Safe boating is no accident.

Knowing the dos and don’ts and the rules of the water can not only mean more fun on the water but can also save lives.

“People are most definitely paying more attention to safety on the water but there are a high percentage of people who do boat without their BOATsmart card (Pleasure Craft Operators License) but ever since the introduction of the card, fatalities have gone down,” said Tashonna McDougall of the BOATsmart organization which was in Penticton recently as part of a coast-to-coast tour to promote safety on the water.

“We want to minimize any risk or anything that could possibly happen and be proactive to react to any situation that you need to. With your BOATsmart card and the training you do and the material you go through to be confident and be able to react in certain situations and just be safe on the water.

“That’s what we’re ultimately looking for.”

However, she agreed there are people who still are not getting the message about safe boating and accidents continue to happen, including the most recent one Saturday night on Shuswap Lake. Sicamous RCMP, the police underwater recovery team and other agencies were called out to search for a 51-year-old Alberta man after what is believed to be a single-vessel accident.

Another man suffered what are thought to be serious injuries in the accident but was rescued by passersby on a pleasure craft and taken to hospital. The cause remains under investigation. That was the third reported accident so far this month, the other two happened on the coast.

There was also a fatal accident in June on Okanagan Lake when a 14-year-old Vernon boy died from injuries he received when he was struck by the propeller of the vessel which had been towing him on an inflatable and was returning to pick him up after he fell off.

According to statistics, there are an average of 120 fatalities on the water every year in Canada and thousands more injuries, many of which go unreported.

Drinking and boating is estimated to be responsible for 40 per cent of those fatalities although that was not the case in the June death.

“Bring water on the boat and leave the alcohol on land. There is no place for alcohol on a boat,” said McDougall. “Also, the effects of drinking alcohol are are also maximized four times on a boat because you are out there in the hot sun.”

The pleasure craft operators’ license is required by law (except for those renting who receive a safety review) and anyone caught without one is liable to a $250 fine. As part of the celebration of its 10th anniversary of helping those on the water stay safe, BOATsmart, which is Transport Canada accredited to provide the exam to get the card, is conducting a fundraiser For each person who posts a water moment photo on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, the organization will donate a dollar to help send disadvantaged kids to camp.

“Our minimum goal is $10,000 and we’re really challenging the everybody in Penticton to share their moments because you’re surrounded by two gorgeous lakes and there must be lots of photos,” said McDougall.

For more information go to boatsmartexam/moments.


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