Girls, 13, remain hospitalized after Fairfield tubing accident

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (WTNH)– Two 13-year-old girls are recovering after a tubing accident off Jennings Beach in Fairfield on Sunday.

According to police, around 4:30 p.m., the girls were aboard a two person tube being pulled by a Nautica rubberized ribbed tender when the tube struck the side of the 69 ft. motor yacht. The girls were thrown into the water face down and unconscious.

People aboard the yacht jumped into the water to rescue the girls and brought them on to the boat that was anchored just 1/8 mile off shore.  Rescue officials then arrived on the scene and boarded the yacht to stabilize the girls for marine transport to the South Benson Marina, where ambulances were standing by.

The girls were taken to Bridgeport Hospital and later transferred to Yale-New Haven Hospital. They’re expected to be released in the next few days.

The incident is under investigation by the State DEEP Police’s Boating Accident Reconstruction Team with Fairfield police assisting.

Police say there are things to keep in mind when you’re out tubing. There should be at least two people on the boat – a driver and a spotter watching the riders. Both need to be at least 12 years old.

“The tubes just slide across the water and the people on the tubes have no recourse to control it. So the person operating the vessel is ultimately responsible for the people he’s towing,” said Officer Keith Perham, who responded to the accident.

Police say the boat pulling the girls may have been going too fast when it turned. The driver had boating experience and there was a spotter watching the girls. Police advise drivers to slow down – especially when children are riding and when going around turns.

“They’re doing the boat speed minimum behind them but there’s what’s called the whipping effect,” said Perham. “When they make turns generally the tubes an take up to double the speed of the boat.”

Drivers should be especially cautious when pulling more than one tube, since tubes can collide with other objects and each other.

“The width or the length of the rope and how far out the tube can go is sometimes deceiving,” said Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara.

The Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has the following eight safety tips to keep in mind next time you’re out on the water:

-Know the area you’ll be tubing in ahead of time
-Make sure the tow line is less than 100 feet long
-Be sure the spotter and riders can communicate through hand signals
-The driver, spotter and riders must all be sober and alert
-Follow the tube’s recommendations regarding capacity and age of riders
-The tow line must be designed for tubing
-Turn off the boat’s engine and count to ten before anyone gets in the water near the boat
-Never back the boat up when pulling tubes

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