Last week’s rescue of four people from a sinking boat in Cedar Key has prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to remind boaters of safe boating practices.
The rescued boat passengers were found clinging to the hull of the boat after a Coast Guard helicopter crew received an emergency dispatch from an area with rough weather conditions.
“The most recent problem we’ve had is people heading out on the water and not checking the weather,” said Petty Officer First Class Crystalynn Kneen, Coast Guard public affairs specialist. About seven to eight of the calls to the command center this weekend were a result of severe weather, she said.
“Weather can deteriorate quickly and can sometimes catch people off guard,” Kneen said.
Boaters can find weather updates from the U.S. Coast Guard’s radio station on Channel 16 or weather.com, she said. In the 2012 Boating Accidents Statistical Report, weather was a primary cause of 43 reported accidents.
“If waves are hitting a smaller vessel, it can start taking on water and it can capsize. A life jacket is one of the main things we push,” Kneen said.
Sixty-eight percent of boat operators and occupants were not wearing a life jacket during the time of their accident, according to the 2012 report. Fifty-five fatalities resulted from boating accidents last year.
Severe weather storms and large waves cause boats to quickly fill with water and capsize, Kneen said, making quick access to life vests a crucial safety requirement.
Kneen also suggested that boaters provide a float plan of their planned departure and return time on the water to friends and family so that rescue teams can be informed of a distressed boaters last known destination.
“We want you to have fun while you’re boating, but we also want you to be safe,” she said.