Recent boating accidents highlight need for water safety
Two fatalities, two near-misses were all avoidable
PRATT — Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks natural resource officers worked three boating-related incidents in the past week, two of which were fatal. The first incident occurred at Marion Reservoir in Marion County at 1:41 p.m. on Friday, April 29, killing a 70-year-old man when the boat in which he and two other anglers were riding was disabled and swamped by wind-driven, high waves.
Wind speeds at the time ranged between 40 and 60 mph with 4- to 5-foot swells on the lake. Two of the anglers were rescued from the water by KDWP natural resource officer Marvin Peterson and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff. Those anglers were taken to Hillsboro Cove where they were treated by emergency medical technicians and released.
The victim, Carl C. Elder, Hutchinson, remained missing until 4:25 p.m. when troopers in a Kansas Highway Patrol helicopter spotted his body on the northeast shore of the lake. All three men were wearing life jackets, which prompted officials to elaborate on water-safety precautions.
“Check the weather forecast before you set out, and avoid going on the water in high winds,” officer Peterson said. “The National Weather Service issues timely high wind warnings, and small boats offer little protection on windy days, even if there is no official warning. If you get caught in high winds, stay near the closest protected shoreline where the water is shallower and the winds may be less severe. Stay away from the open water. Above all, wear your personal flotation device; it gives you an extra measure of protection if you’re thrown into the water.”
The second incident occurred at Hillsdale Lake in Miami County at 1:15 a.m. on Sunday, May 1. In that accident, William Ure, 54, from Independence, Mo., died when he attempted to start the motor on his jon boat while it was in gear. The boat lurched forward, and he was thrown overboard. His wife and two family members tried to paddle the disabled boat toward Ure, without success. The incident occurred near the Marysville Boat Ramp on the east side of the lake. A boater at the ramp heard the family’s calls and helped get Ure into the boat, then towed the boat to emergency responders waiting at the ramp.
Staff from the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, Miami County EMS, and South Johnson County Fire Department attempted to revive Ure, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. He was not wearing a life jacket. NRO Lt. David Ellis reported that of the five life jackets on board the victim’s boat, only one was properly sized and usable, but it wasn’t being worn.
“It’s important to have properly-sized life jackets in good condition for all passengers to wear,” Ellis said. “In addition, be certain to know, understand, and follow the proper procedures for starting and operating boat motors. These kinds of precautions can go a long way toward preventing tragedies like this.”
The third incident occurred about 9 a.m. Monday, May 2, at Elk City Reservoir in Montgomery County. Two contractor employees repainting the spillway gates tried to use an aluminum jon boat to approach a partially-closed gate that was blocked by debris when their boat got caught in heavy turbulence near the gate.
One man jumped from the boat, was sucked under the gate and surfaced on the other side, where he swam to shore. As the boat capsized, the second worker held onto a safety rope hanging from the gate tower and attempted to fight the turbulent water. After about 10 minutes, he fell into the water and was sucked under the gate, also surfacing on the other side.
Cold and exhausted, he was rescued from the water by a KDWP officer and other emergency responders. A coworker who had witnessed the incident from the tower and called 911 also aided in the rescue.
The first worker was examined at the scene by emergency medical staff and refused further treatment. The second worker was transported to an Independence hospital where he was treated and released. According to Ryan Walker, KDWP NRO for Montgomery County, the fact that both men were wearing life jackets may have prevented another tragedy.
“Although the circumstances were unusual, this incident illustrates the importance of wearing proper life jackets,” Walker explained. “If these men had not been wearing their life preservers, the outcome of this situation might have been fatal. It’s also important to be aware of hazardous conditions created by turbulent water at spillway gates and river weirs.”
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