Thursday, May 19, 2005

Snorkelling Accident - Swimmer loses arm

Port Authority rules on snorkelling accident Thursday, May 19, 2005 The wakeboarders involved in the accident that saw a snorkeller lose an arm in George Town Harbour last Saturday, 14 May should have been at least 50 yards offshore, said a Port Authority spokesman. Philip Haberlen, a grocery store manager from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, was the unfortunate victim of the accident as he snorkelled at the rear of the apartment where he was staying at Coral Sands, adjacent to Rackhams Pub. Wakeboarders from Florida as well as locals and tourists had gathered at Rackhams for the event, but events came to a dramatic halt at around 3pm after the tragedy. The Port Authority had been informed that the event was taking place, but their spokesman, Joseph Woods, said: “Normally this sort of activity would be at least 600ft offshore. “On Friday 13 May a gentleman came to see me and asked if we had any objections to the wakeboarders operating between Rackhams and somewhere off Seven Mile Beach,” said Mr Woods. “We didn’t have a problem with them operating within that area as there were no cruise ships in, but we didn’t know they were going to be operating inside the shore area. “That area is anywhere inside the drop-off area for the cruise ships. We don’t grant permission, but we would state whether we have any objections and we would direct them away from that area. “There were no cruise ships or other operations, but at no time did the gentleman say they would be operating so close to the shore. We didn’t give them permission to operate from the shore. They would be advised to go at least 600ft offshore to do something like this,” added Mr Woods. However, he noted that the statutory regulations in force for boats operating offshore states: “No vessel shall travel parallel to the shore line unless they are 50 yards therefrom. “No vessel should exceed a speed of five knots or go within 50 yards of any vessel at anchor.” Mr Woods added: “There are no set regulations governing water skiers or wakeboarders, but for events like the Poker Run in 2004 and 2005 we have advised them to stay at least 300 yards away from the cruise ships.” John Graham Taylor, organiser of the ‘Ride the Wake Championship Series’ wakeboarding event, said that he had taken legal advice and was unable to comment on the accident. PC Neil Williams of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, said: “The matter is still being investigated. “The CID will have to ascertain exactly where the boat and victim were and the speed the boat was doing. If the boat was within the shore line limits and travelling at above 5 knots then we would be looking to proceed with the matter a different way other than simply regarding it as an accident.”

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