Saturday, June 04, 2005

Report on State Boating Accidents

06/04/05 Report includes number of state boating accidents By Paul Ertelt Capitol Bureau ALBANY — They took to the water last summer in canoes, kayaks and motorboats. Some were young, and some were old. Some had been drinking, but others were sober. Most were not wearing life jackets, and now they’re dead. Of the 18 people who died in boating accidents in New York last year, 13 drowned, according to a report by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Of the drowning victims, 11 were not wearing life jackets. Another drowning victim was wearing a life vest that was improperly inflated. There were no boating deaths last year in Otsego, Delaware, Schoharie or Chenango counties, and 2004 was a relatively safe year foAdvertisement r boaters statewide. The death toll was roughly half of 2003’s, when 34 people died in boating accidents, and the state’s second lowest since 1980. About half of the boating deaths involved canoes and kayaks, according to the report. Kayaks aren’t inherently dangerous, but kayakers need to be properly equipped and know how to handle their boats, said Jason Smith, manager of Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters in Saranac Lake. Anyone who rents a canoe or kayak from Adirondack Lakes must sign a statement saying they will wear a life vest, he said. Ernie Gardner, the 80-year-old owner of Cold Brook Canoes in Ulster County, has been canoeing and kayaking for decades and has always worn a life jacket. But a good friend who bought a kayak a few years ago refused to wear one. What's Related "When they found his body, he was not wearing his vest. It was jammed up in his kayak when they found his kayak," Gardner said. Kayaking has become increasing popular in recent years, and inexpensive kayaks are readily available. Many are sold at "big box" stores, but those stores don’t always provide the buyer with all the necessary safety information, Smith said. Although cool, wet weather was partly responsible for the decline, tougher laws and better enforcement also have made New York’s waterways safer, said Wendy Gibson, spokesman for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Last year, nearly 38,000 people took safe-boating courses in New York, up from about 8,200 in 2000. The increase resulted mostly from a law phased in over several years that required such training for riders of personal watercraft, Gibson said. There were 32 accidents last year involving PWC, which was down from 117 in 1999. Also, in 2003, the legal blood-alcohol limit for boaters was lowered from 0.1 percent to 0.08 percent.

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