Alaska sets new boating fatality record

By July 18, 2013Outdoors
Lt. Tom Pauser, with the 17th Coast Guard District’s prevention division, displays two life jackets while discussing their proper use with students at Hogarth Kingeekuk Sr. Memorial School April 10, 2012. The Coast Guard partnered with Alaska’s Office of Boating Safety to educate students in rural villages about cold-water safety. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

The Coast Guard often partners with Alaska’s Office of Boating Safety to educate students about cold-water safety. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Usually a boating fatality story is a sad recounting of a life lost on the water. But not this story.

Alaska has not had a single recreational boating fatality since the start of the year.

That’s a record-breaking streak for Alaska, according to Jeff Johnson with the Office of Boating Safety.

“We’re excited. We just hope it continues.”

Last year, no fatalities occurred until the end of June when seven people died over a couple weeks.

Most recent years averaged a dozen fatalities, according to Johnson. July and August tend to be the most dangerous months. Last year saw 22 fatalities.

Deaths that occur in a commercial activity–including guided fishing trips, boat tours, or river rafting—are not included in these statistics.

Johnson says people often underestimate just how cold the water is.

“Our fatality profile in Alaska is a little different than the national profile. Our fatalities are most commonly a capsize, swamping or fall over board and it’s a cold-water immersion drowning.”

According to statistics kept by OBS since its start in 1998, nine out of ten victims are adult males that end up in the water without a life jacket.

Johnson says that it’s common among men to see life jackets as an inconvenience or as something only beginners wear.

“Without a life jacket on, most of these folks are not living long enough to become hypothermic. Life jackets are the single most important thing that people can do to avoid dying in an immersion event.”

OBS offers a list of safety guidelines along with state requirements for boating safety.

 

Recent headlines

  • An Alaska Airlines plane at Juneau International Airport.

    Alaska Airlines pilots plan picket over lack of compensation

    Alaska Airlines pilots have reached a breaking point in negotiations with the company, and now have plans to picket outside Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The pilots plan to picket starting at 1 p.m. Monday outside the airport in Anchorage.
  • Obadiah Jenkins tries to help Daniel Hartung pull himself from Six-Mile Creek in Hope. (Photo courtesy James Bennett)

    Homer resident saves kayaker’s life on Six-Mile Creek

    Jenkins was taking a practice run through the class four rapids when a bystander filming the event, noticed another participant, Daniel Hartung, 64, of Indian Valley, flipped out of his kayak and became pinned under a log.
  • Vigor Alaska Shipyard Development director Doug Ward talks with Marine Transportation advisory board member Greg Wakefield inside the not-quite-finished Alaska Class ferry Tazlina. (Photo by Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

    Alaska class ferry Tazlina on track at Ketchikan shipyard

    The Tazlina is the first of two new Alaska Class ferries that the Ketchikan Vigor Alaska shipyard is building for the state. Its two halves are complete and welded together, and shipyard workers are busy getting interior spaces done.
  • The Matanuska sits in drydock for maintenance.

    Fall-winter-spring ferry bookings begin

    The Alaska Marine Highway is taking reservations for October through April sailings. The schedule changed so the Matanuska can get new engines.
X