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Drownings reinforce need to wear PFDs

August 31, 2016 3:00 P.M.

Two drownings in the past week in which personal flotation devices were not worn have prompted a warning by the B.C. Coroners Service ahead of the Labour Day long weekend.

Both victims were in small boats. In one case, the person fell overboard. In the other, the boat capsized. Neither person was wearing a PFD. Neither one survived.

In at least one case, PFDs were aboard the boat but not being worn by the occupants. This reinforces the need for boaters to wear PFDs  at all times while on the water, as research has shown that as many as 70 percent of boating deaths involve persons who have become separated from their vessels.

A study from Washington State showed that the chances of someone dying in a boating accident were 2.6 times higher if they were not wearing a PFD. Another study from Alaska showed that of all those who died in recreational boating accidents, only 17 percent were wearing a PFD.

Coroners’ statistics show that boating is the most common context in which drowning occurs in B.C.. In 2015, 36 percent of all accidental drowning deaths (25 from a total of 70) involved someone who was boating. 

The other key boating safety tip offered by the B.C. Coroners Service: Do not mix alcohol with any recreational water activities. A study specific to boating published in the journal, Injury Prevention, suggests that someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 has about 10 times the risk of drowning while boating, and that even a small amount of alcohol can increase the risk.  

Here are some more water safety tips.

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