Comments sought on propeller-strike report

The Coast Guard and the American Boat and Yacht Council released a draft report, “Human Factors Analysis of Propeller Strikes,” prepared by CED Investigative Technologies Inc.

The report concludes that no universal solution exists to mitigate the risk of injury from accidental contact with boat propellers — an issue that the Coast Guard has studied since as early as 1988.

“While no universal solutions exist for this problem, propeller guards have been shown to offer limited protection under certain conditions with particular hull types and engine combinations and are one method of mitigating this risk of injury,” the report states.

“Other mitigation methods should be studied to extend the opportunity of mitigating injury from propeller strikes,” according to the report. “These methods can include training, the use of alert technology, and even modifications to boat layout, such as the location of boarding ladders.”

The report is open for comment until April 11.

People injured by boat propellers have brought lawsuits against several boatbuilders in recent years.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association has formed a task force to review the report and provide comment. NMMA members who would like to participate or would like additional information are asked to contact Cindy Squires at csquires@nmma.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (202) 737-9766.

Our view from the helm:

   A universal solution is the utilization of common sense. You don't open the door of a moving car, jump out, get run over and sue the car or tire manufacturer because there wasn't a warning posted in the car stating that if you engaged in such activity it could cause serious injury or death.

   There is an inherent risk in everything we do, from the time we get out of bed in the morning to, well, the time we get out of bed the following morning and so on.

   It's high time that we as a society take responsibility for our actions and accept that fact that the majority of products out there are safe but can be dangerous and cause injury or death if not used properly.

   Do we really need a warning on the side of a styrofoam cup that the hot coffee we ordered is “hot”? Or that propellers on boats, whether spinning or not, are sharp and can cut you? Specifically what is it about the marine industry that makes the consumer want to sue for their own lack of judgement?

   There are laws regarding the mandatory use of seat-belts in cars. If a driver or their passengers choose to not use a seat belt and then are injured in an accident whose fault is that? The car manufacturer? The seat belt maker? Of course not. It's the fault of the person who chose to not secure a seat belt across their body just as it's the fault of the person that chooses to jump out of a boat with the engine still running, or the person who backs a boat up into one of their passengers, or the drunk boater who operates their boat in such a manner that their passenger falls overboard and is struck by the propeller.

It's been often said that there ought to be a law. It's a shame to think that for boaters there may just have to be.

Sticker Shocked!

Senator seeks sticker system for boat inspections

Posted on 07 February 2012

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., recently asked the Coast Guard to meet with marine trade groups, boating safety advocates and local law enforcement officials to discuss the implementation of an official inspection sticker system that would better coordinate boater patrols on the Hudson River so boaters are not repeatedly stopped.

Creating a sticker system that all levels of law enforcement recognize has the support of the boating community, and several Hudson Valley law enforcement agencies have expressed a willingness to participate, Schumer said.

He noted that not only will the use of a widely recognized inspection sticker minimize hassle for boaters, but it also would free up law enforcement officials and allow their positive influence to be spread more widely throughout the community.

“With spring boating season fast approaching, it is time to jump-start an official boat inspection sticker program, which will help prevent repeated boat stoppages on the Hudson River, which are as annoying as they are inefficient,” Schumer said in a statement. ”I am urging the Coast Guard to take the lead on this important initiative by coordinating a meeting with state and local authorities, as well as boater trade and advocacy groups, so that this coordinated inspection program can get off the ground.”

Rather than screen one boat six times, we need to develop a program to screen six boats once, he added.

Schumer is urging the Coast Guard to meet with stakeholders this month.

Last summer, he sent a letter to Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp after a series of media reports documented concerns about a lack of coordination among federal agencies that resulted in recreational boaters being stopped multiple times by different agencies on the same day.

Our view from the helm: To be blunt the placement of an inspection sticker on a vessel should not take the place of law enforcement. To us this would be no different than putting a Police Benevolant Association sticker on your car bumper and expect that it will give you immunity from being pulled over by the police. Part of living in a free society is that we have rules and regulations and in a post 9/11 world this is just something that we'll have to put up with.

   Instead of a sticker system it would seem to us that communication among the different law enforcement agencies patrolling the waterways would be a more logical place to start. If a vessel is pulled over and inspected a description of the vessel including the registration numbers could be broadcast to all patrolling agencies and barring that vessel or the people on it doing something hazardous, it could then be left alone.

The 1st Ridiculous Boating Injury Lawsuit of 2012 Has Arrived!

Woman sues boat operator, renter
Deondra Scott was seriously injured by a propeller at Lake Norman event in June.
By Gary L. Wright
By Gary L. Wright The Charlotte Observer
Posted: Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012
   A Charlotte woman who lost one of her arms and her breasts after being struck by a boat propeller on Lake Norman last June has sued the boat operator.
   Deondra Scott – who also is suing the boat manufacturer and the person who rented out the boat – claims she was struck twice by a propeller after she'd jumped into the water at the Lake Bash on Lake Norman.
   Scott alleges that Dennis F. Allen, the boat's operator, had never operated a motorboat before the accident and did not have the skill to handle a motorboat in a public area, especially during one of the most crowded events on Lake Norman.
    Scott, 25, claims that she was injured while Allen was maneuvering the motorboat in an attempt to tie it to another boat and participate in the Lake Bash. Allen had rented the motorboat to go to the Lake Bash with a group of friends, including Scott, according to the lawsuit.
   The lawsuit alleges that a few of Allen's passengers, including Scott, had jumped into the water while Allen was trying to tie up the boat.
   The lawsuit alleges that Allen, because of his inexperience, lack of training and inability to see people in the water, failed to turn off the engine and continued to try to tie up with another boat.
   “As (Scott) was swimming towards the ladder attached to the stern of the boat so that she could board the swim platform, Ms. Jennifer Pagliaro (a passenger in the boat), along with other people in the area, screamed at defendant Allen to cut (immediately turn off) the engine,” the lawsuit says.
   Allen “panicked” and “slammed” the throttle into a reverse gear, striking Scott with the boat's propeller, the lawsuit alleges. Scott claims Allen then put the boat into a forward gear, causing the propeller to strike her again.
   Scott alleges in the lawsuit that she suffered severe injuries, including lacerations to her right arm and breasts. The arm and breasts have been amputated, she says. She claims she also suffered serious lacerations to both legs, a punctured lung and a severed sternum.
   Scott alleges that as a result of Allen's “reckless and negligent actions,” she has suffered damages – “medical bills, lost wages, permanent injury, scarring, loss of limb, loss of other essential body parts, pain and suffering in excess of ten thousand dollars.” She says she also has “suffered extreme emotional and psychological problems.”
   Allen, 30, was charged with operating a boat in a reckless manner. The misdemeanor charge is pending.
   Scott also has sued David D. Orzolek and Chaparral Boats Inc. Orzolek rented the motorboat to Allen and Chaparral Boats designed, manufactured and marketed the boat, according to the lawsuit.
   The lawsuit alleges that Orzolek was aware or should have been aware that Allen had never operated a motorboat and knew or should have known the danger Allen posed to the public.
   Orzolek “erroneously entrusted, poorly supervised and inadequately trained defendant Allen, subjecting (Scott) to great risk,” the lawsuit alleges.
   Scott claims that Chaparral Boats sold the motorboat to the public despite its unsafe design for a 14-passenger boat.    She claims that seven passengers are necessarily seated behind the operator, potentially obstructing his or her vision.
The boat's swim platform and ladder, the lawsuit alleges, are only a few feet from the boat's propeller.
   Allen and Orzolek could not be reached for comment Monday.
Bob Ellis, a customer service specialist with Chaparral Boats in Nashville, Ga., said the company's lawyers are investigating the incident. “We were not aware this had occurred until we got the lawsuit,” Ellis said.            

Staff researchers Marion Paynter and Maria David contributed

Our view from the helm is this:  Dennis F. Allen who was driving the boat and Deondra Scott who was struck by the boat both share responsibility for this accident. Mr. Allen for failing to properly control his passengers and Ms. Scott for jumping out of the boat and then swimming back to it while the motor was still running. It is not the fault of Chaparral Boats or the business that rented the boat to Mr. Allen.

Case closed!