WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WECT) - After three boat accidents in the Cape Fear Region over the past week, a local boat-towing company and traumatic injury expert are offering some tips on how you can protect yourself while out on the water this summer.
"Most of the boat accidents that have injuries or those that end up on the dock, we maybe see two or three a year," Captain Scott Collins with Sea Tow of Wrightsville Beach said. "This is the first week of summer vacation and we have three months more to go. It won't be the last one, unfortunately."
Collins said last Monday's collision at Bank's Channel was an incident of texting and boating, one of many distracted boating problems he is seeing on the water lately.
"It's a recipe for a disaster," Collins said. "People, lately, are not paying attention. They are passing at high rates of speed, not adhering to no wake zones, and not having patience. Most people out here are not experienced mariners. They are ignorant with a lack of knowledge."
Collins said the boat ramp near the bridge in Wrightsville Beach is where many of the problems arise and may continue to occur this summer.
"Everyone is trying to get out there, trying to get down here as fast as they can to get in front of everyone else so they can get to the boat ramp quicker," Collins said. "It is so dangerous. ... There could be 100 boats coming in at one time."
Collins recommends leaving your destination early or later to avoid extra traffic.
He also suggests boaters take safety courses offered by the US Coast Guard, NC Wildlife, or local community colleges.
"You are supposed to operate your vessel with the conditions surrounding you and that is weather, traffic, visibility, wake zones," Collins said. "Boater safety courses should be mandatory, just like a driver's license for a car. I think there should be one for a boat."
Collins said no wake zones are there for everyone's safety to both eliminate damage to surrounding docks as well as boaters.
"People don't understand that the no wake definition doesn't mean just slow down. It means to eliminate all wake," Collins said.
On Sunday, a boat collision, also in Wrightsville Beach, landed several people in the hospital. According to the Coast Guard, one victim suffered a cut to one of his arteries after he hit the propeller as he was being thrown off the boat. Collins said the use of a kill switch on the engine could have prevented those injuries.
"You wear it around your neck or on your life jacket, and it plugs in near the ignition so it will kill the motor if you are ejected, which could prevent an injury if you are in the water circling around the boat," Collins said. "If he had one, it would not have been as bad of an accident."
Other must-have items that Collins recommends include:
- A fire extinguisher
- Life vests
- Sound-making devices such as an air-horn or whistle
- Throwable life-saving cushion
- First aid kit
"Most all items need to be Coast Guard approved," Collins said. "My recommendation is to contact your local Coast Guard Auxillary and they can do an inspection of your boat and it's absolutely free."
In your first aid kit -- which is highly recommended but not legally required -- there are a few essentials that experts recommend.
Meredith Spell, Injury and violence prevention coordinator with NHRMC, said a first aid kit should contain at least a tourniquet, medications, gloves, gauze, band aids, antiseptic wipes, neosporin, a CPR mask, and a whistle.
"It's important for everyone to have them so they have immediate access to it," said Spell. "You don't know how long it's going to take somebody, who is an official or some other boater who may have these equipment available to get to you if you're in distress. And especially with tourniquets and bleeding, time is of the essence. Even two minutes can make a difference in life and death."