NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Memorial day weekend wasn’t the sunny start many boaters were hoping for. Soon enough, the waters of western Massachusetts will be crowded, and that’s when the danger begins.
The U.S. Coast Guard found there were 701 deadly boating accidents last year – the highest it’s been in the last 5 years. It’s a 12% jump from 2015.
Injuries also went up 11% during that same time.
Alcohol was the number one contributing factor in these incidents, and it lead to about 15-percent of all the deadly accidents. Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, and machine failure ranked as the next top 5 causes of accidents.
Clay Duda of the Oxbow Marina says he hasn’t seen these issues near the marina, but isn’t shocked they’re happening. “The river’s always changing,” says Duda. “There’s obstructions out there. The water is higher, so there is debris. So just be aware of your surroundings. Understand that there are other people on the water too, and that there’s not a traffic lane that divides the traffic.”
The Oxbow gives their boaters Coast Guard safety kits, and goes with new boaters to help them test the waters. Environmental police are stationed nearby in case anything goes wrong.
“We try and do our part to educate people to prevent that,” says Duda. “You have to understand the rules of the river.”
The Coast Guard urges boaters to wear life jackets, regardless of age or physical ability. 80% of those who died, drowned.