Jet Ski Accident Critically Injures Young Man, Highlights Risks of Boating

dreamstime_xs_20287446-300x189A local high school student sustained a serious head injury when he was hit by a jet ski during his family’s annual holiday to Lake Palestine on Sunday. 18 year-old Tyler Haessley was climbing into an inner tube tied to a boat when his older brother, 26, tried to splash him with a wave runner. But he misjudged his distance and speed and hit Tyler in the head, causing serious injuries.

Tyler has undergone several surgeries, can’t speak, and remains hospitalized in the intensive care unit of a Tyler hospital. He faces a long period of rehabilitation ahead of him. Please consider making a small contribution to his gofundme account.

Now that it’s summer and the busy Fourth of July weekend is in a few days, we’ve got to keep this from happening again.

A boat is not a toy

People have to stop horsing around on a boat or a jet ski. While they are fun and feel less dangerous than cars, it’s easy to forget that they can cause serious injuries.

Some wave runners can reach speeds of 70 mph and have a 250-horsepower, four-cylinder engine, similar to a motorcycle. However even a smaller one that hits a swimmer can do severe damage, especially with its hidden propeller blade.

And it’s shocking how young you can be and legally drive one.

In Texas, a teen as young as 13 can operate a personal watercraft (PWC) or even a boat without supervision. Only an online boating course is required.

And a child who is younger than 13 can operate a PWC or motorboat if a person who is at least 18 years old supervises, thereby putting a teen in charge of a younger teen.

The certification never expires, so teens who pass the education course may never get a refresher, even if they only operate a watercraft once a year or less during short summer vacations.

Really? Note to state legislature: these rules need to be restricted.

Risks of Boating Accidents

Living in landlocked Texas, enjoying our many recreational lakes is a favorite pastime of residents of Dallas-Fort Worth. Yet Texans often don’t appreciate the risks associated with being on the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard recorded 4,463 boating accidents that resulted in 701 fatalities and almost 3,000 injuries in 2016. Predictably, the most common cause of death from boating accidents was drowning (80 percent) with almost all of those victims not wearing their life jackets. And 46 deaths and 675 injuries occurred on wave runners.

If a boat hits another vessel or a stationary object, such as a dock or sandbar, occupants face similar risks to driving in an open vehicle without a seat belt. Water does not cushion an ejected boater and has the added risks of drowning a person who is rendered unconscious by the impact.

Boaters also can’t always see swimmers and snorkelers bobbing at the surface of the water or partially submerged. Sloshing waves and the glare of sunshine seriously obstruct the view from the wheel of the boat.

Other primary factors in boating accidents include distraction, inexperience, speeding and of course alcohol impairment. Sound familiar? That’s right, those same issues that make driving dangerous.

Although a boat operator can be charged with boating under the influence (BUI), enforcement is rendered more challenging by the very nature of boating. What limited law enforcement there is on a lake can’t rely on such telltale signs as swerving, braking and failing to stop at traffic signals that often give away a drunk driver.

It’s summer and the living is easy, as the famous song goes, but please be smart and safe on the water.

 

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