Safety tips offered in wake of boating fatalities on Colorado River

State law requires anyone 12 and under to wear a life jacket at all times when a vessel is underway. (Stock photo)

State law requires anyone 12 and under to wear a life jacket at all times when a vessel is underway. (Stock photo)

PHOENIX — As Arizona’s boating season continues, Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) reminds all water goers to practice boating safety by always wearing a life jacket and operating your watercraft at safe speeds while on the water.

The reminder comes following a deadly head-on collision between two boats north of Lake Havasu Sept. 1. The two boats, one carrying 10 people and the other carrying six, collided between Pirates Cove and Topock Marina, sinking both boats and ejecting everyone into the water, according to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.

No one was wearing life jackets and multiple people were injured. Three people died and officers from multiple agencies, including AZGFD, continue to search for one other.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families impacted by this horrible incident,” said AZGFD Boating Safety Education Program Coordinator Josh Hoffman. “The unfortunate reality is that incidents such as these are very much preventable. It is absolutely critical that all boat operators keep a proper lookout for nearby watercraft and travel at safe speeds. Additionally, everyone aboard should be wearing a life jacket at all times. Accidents can happen in a blink of an eye.”

The U.S. Coast Guard reported that in 2017 there were 4,291 recreational boating accidents, involving 658 deaths nationwide. In cases where the cause of death was known, 76 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned and of those, 84.5 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

In addition to ensuring people are wearing a life jacket, boat and watercraft owners should routinely check to see that their life jackets are in good condition, that they are the right size and fit for your passengers. On average in Arizona, life jackets should be replaced every five years.

Game and Fish reminds the public that state law requires anyone 12 and under to wear a life jacket at all times when the vessel is underway and said there should be one life jacket aboard for every passenger, including canoes and kayaks.

Additionally, a throwable flotation device — usually a cushion with handles or a ring buoy — is required for all watercraft longer than 16 feet, excluding canoes and kayaks.

AZGFD also recommends watercraft operators and their passengers take a free boating safety course in Phoenix and Lake Havasu City to learn the information and tips needed to stay safe while on the water. More information on boating safety or to register for a hands-on or online safety course is available at www.azgfd.com/Education/Boating.

Information provided by AZGFD.

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