Oregon leisure boating deaths fall in 2021, however nonetheless above historic ranges

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Five of the 19 died despite life jackets; several were small children

SALEM, Oregon (KTVZ) – 2021 was a safer boating year in Oregon than 2020, the Oregon State Marine Board announced Tuesday, but the death toll was still above historical levels.

“We’re on the right track,” says Randy Henry, the agency’s Boating Safety Program Manager. “But it would be a great resolution for more boaters to just wear their life jackets in 2022,” he added in a Tuesday press release that continues in full below.

Henry has completed an annual review of the 2021 boating season’s 19 fatalities, an improvement on 2020’s 26 boating deaths, the highest number since 1987.

“We continue to see a large and growing variety of boaters on Oregon’s waterways,” says Henry. “They were crowded, people were having fun, and the types of watercraft got bigger and bigger. Boating is a healthy outdoor activity, but we need to take a step back and talk about safety. “

“In 2021 there were deaths in all waters, in all types of vessels, and in all ages,” says Henry. The victims had appeared in the sea, in inland rivers, large and small lakes and reservoirs between the ages of five and 79 years. Half of the deaths occurred in non-motorized or small electric boats, but others in larger boats designed for open water.

“It reminds us that everyone has to be prepared, no matter who they are or where they are driving,” says Henry. “Life jackets are great tools, but they don’t prevent the incident that made them necessary. So you also have to consider the weather, tides and your own abilities before you set off. ”

The coastline death toll was high that year, with three double fatalities occurring in the surf zone or at coastal strip crossings.

“That included fast ebb and flow, unexpected breakers, and obvious equipment problems or falls overboard,” says Henry. “Coastal waters are unforgiving. You need to be aware of the tides, the weather, the sea conditions and the danger spots at jetties or reefs. It takes skill and practice. The ocean always deserves your greatest respect, ”added Henry.

For the second year running, Henry discovers several young children have died in boating accidents. “One was about a child in a small rubber dinghy on the edge of a river who was not wearing a life jacket and the other was trapped in a life jacket in a capsized boat,” said Henry. “It breaks your heart to see these incidents.

“Occasionally the life jacket is not enough, but most of the time it is. Parents should always put their child in a life jacket, even if it’s just on a tube or a small rubber dinghy at the edge of a pond or other waterway. Things happen so quickly. ”

Five of the boat victims in 2021 wore life jackets, which is a bit high. “Life jackets are absolutely life-saving, but they’re not a guarantee,” says Henry. Four of the victims wearing life jackets were caught in a surf situation, two of them sustained serious injuries and two were trapped in the cabin of a capsized boat. The fifth victim had a medical event that contributed to his death.

Inflatable life jackets are now popular with many boaters, but Henry says they are not for everyone.

“We are investigating incidents where life jackets fail to inflate,” says Henry. “We generally find that the owner did not maintain the life jacket properly – that the device just did not work. Inflatable life jackets are machines that require inspection and maintenance. Anyone using an inflatable life jacket should test it to make sure it works. If you don’t know how to use it, wear an actual foam float life jacket called an inherently buoyant life jacket, ”said Henry. “It’s one less variable to worry about.”

Henry noted that the number of female victims in 2021 was 31 percent, double the 10-year average. “Almost a third of our boating victims were women,” says Henry. “US Coast Guard data from the 2019 National Life Jacket Wear Rate Report shows that the proportion of women who actively participate in boating has increased by five percent over the past 10 years and is now nearly 40 percent of all boaters. It is therefore to be expected that the proportion of female deaths will increase. ”

The average age of boating victims this year was 49, less than last year, says Henry.

“This year in review is always sobering,” says Henry. “When you look at the individual incidents, you see so many that could easily have been prevented if the operator had taken a very simple, basic safety precaution, such as waiting for the tidal cycle to expire, wearing a life jacket or checking the Weather. Boating safely is easy when you take the time. That is the take-home message. ”

Recreational boating data and annual summaries are available on the Marine Board website.