Staying safe behind the boat
Falling down hurts, even when you are riding on water.Summer means all the fun of water skiing, wake boarding and all the other variations on the towed-behind-the-boat theme. But a July 11 accident on Donner Lake highlighted the fact that painful mishaps do occur. A 15-year-old boy from Marin County was taken to the hospital in critical condition with severe lacerations on his legs from a boat propeller.The boat had been towing an inner tube and stopped to collect the tube’s riders, according to reports. The driver of the boat accelerated and the teen was sucked under the rear of the vessel by the propeller.Boating-related injuries are a fairly frequent event in the summer time, said Nathan Johnson from Care Flight. The big ones that come to mind are propeller injuries; getting too close to the boat while the engine is running.There are other injuries that Care Flight sees from water skiers and wake boarders as well.Slack ropes around skiers means we get a lot of rope burns and lacerations, also some broken bones from falls and head injuries such as concussions, Johnson said.Care Flight recommends considering the area in which you are water-skiing; each boat should be able to maintain a 200-foot wide ski corridor with a length of at least 2,000 to 3,000 feet long, avoiding the need to turn constantly.Weather is also an important factor in water skiing and wake boarding safety, as it affects water conditions and visibility for both the boat driver and the rider behind.Most problems out on the lake are driver-related, rather than the skier or boarder.Common mistakes are usually driver error; including when turning to get the skier, the driver will make a power turn to come back, which means they are not taking the time to look around, said Heath Spencer, the owner of the Beach Barn in Kings Beach. Such a maneuver also sends out waves and brings the bow up, Spencer said, making it harder for the driver to see. Making a slower turn at idle speed is safer and keeps the water smoother, he said.Skiers and boarders should also take care. People shouldnt ride above their ability levels, Spencer said.As with any sporting equipment, a good fit is important.Use proper fitting bindings instead of borrowing ones that are too big, its not a safe thing; your ankle could twist inside the binding, Spencer said. Ben Redfield, the manager at Porters Ski & Sport, said people should never wear too big of a life jacket.If you get in the wrong size life jacket its obvious, he said.If an injury does occur on the water there are simple precautions to follow, said Care Flight’s Johnson.Try to summon help as quickly as possible, get the patient out of the water if there is a drowning risk such as alcohol related situations and keep them still, he said.
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