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Archive for July 2011

Kill Switch Lanyard

Lanyard photo courtesy of The U.S. Coast Guard

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Regulations) in the Federal Register on June 8, 2011. The proposal is titled, Installation and Use of Engine Cut-Off Switches on Recreational Vessels.

As part of the proposal, the Coast Guard also published a Preventable Fatalities and Injuries Report listing boating accidents from 2002 through 2006 in which the use of an Engine Cut-Off Switch / Kill Switch would have likely prevented the fatalities or injuries resulting from an operator falling overboard or otherwise being ejected.

The USCG proposal includes a Background Section with a history of the Coast Guard’s efforts to reduce vessel and propeller strikes since about 1990.

While the Coast Guard engine cut-off proposal seeks input on almost countless points, the two primary kill-switch issues being debated are: Read More→

0 Categories : Regulations

Following up on Hydrodynamics of Propeller Accidents Part 1, we now share some research work that looks very applicable to future hydrodynamic studies of human body / swimmer / man overboard interactions with boats, drives, propellers, and propeller guards.

Whale Model

Whale Model

We recently came across some hydrodynamic studies of whale interactions with ships, ship hulls, and ship propellers. One study was done at Carderock (the U.S. Navy lab facility we earlier suggested as a possible location to do full scale interaction studies with small boats). In the whale ship interaction study, they used a scale model of a huge containership with an elliptical bow bulb along with an instrumented model of a right whale.

The study is cited below.

Hydrodynamics of a Ship/Whale Collision.
Gregory K. Silber, Jonathan Slutsky, and Shannon Bettridge.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.
Vol.391 (2010) Pages 10-19.
an Elsevier Journal.

Several quotes in the journal are strikingly similar to the needs of propeller guard hydrodynamic studies. The abstract contained the quote below:

“Factors influencing the incidence and severity of ship strikes are not well understood, although vessel speed appears to be a strong contributor. The purpose of this study was to characterize the hydrodynamic effects near a moving hull that may cause a whale to be drawn in or repelled from the hull, and to assess the acceleration exerted on a whale at the time of impact.”

Read More→

Little research has been done surrounding the hydromechanics of people / swimmers/ man overboard encounters with propellers or propeller guards. We will now explore this field, some of the opportunities it presents, and some recent research that looks very applicable to studying the hydrodynamics of human / boat / propeller / propeller guard interactions. We will begin by exploring the history of what has been done to date. Read More→

The boating industry continues to claim almost all boat propeller accidents are reported in BARD. They base their claims on the United States Coast Guard’s claims that the more serious a boating accident is, the more likely it is to be reported. The industry says propeller injury accidents are very serious and therefore they must almost all be reported.

We continue to find propeller accident after propeller accident that is not listed in USCG’s Boating Accident Report Database (BARD) or not classified as a propeller accident in BARD. Yesterday we identified between 14 and 19 Florida 2010 propeller accidents that are not listed as 2010 propeller accidents in BARD. 14 of those accidents were reported in Florida’s own boating accident statistical report as propeller accidents. We found 4 to 5 more 2010 Florida propeller accidents in news media reports that are not in BARD. And that is not counting a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officer who was seriously injured by a boat propeller on the job (BARD does not count government vessel propeller accidents).

We present the 17 April 2010 pontoon boat propeller accident resulting in the death of Carla Faul in Florida’s Withlacoochee River as an example of a news media reported propeller accident that is not classified as a boat propeller accident in BARD.

USCG Boat Responsibly Logo

USCG Boat Responsibly Logo

Please note USCG quickly responded to our request for assistance in better understanding why these Florida accidents were not listed in 2010 BARD. This particular accident (Faul pontoon boat accident) was not labeled as a propeller accident in BARD because Florida did not report it as a propeller accident. Back in late March 2011 USCG requested additional information from Florida on this accident due it looking like a possible propeller accident. USCG did not receive the information they requested. Before we leap on FWC for not responding, I am sure I have no concept how busy their office is in the Spring and Summer. Government budgetary issues and staffing may have played a part as well. We will continue to follow up on the collection of missing Florida propeller accidents in the future.

Read More→

As mentioned in our previous review of propeller accident reporting in USCG’s BARD 2010 database, 7 of the 10 propeller accidents we found news media reports for that were not listed in BARD occurred in the State of Florida.

That got us wondering if something might be different with their reporting criteria, their boating accident report form, their database, their method of forwarding the accidents to the U.S. Coast Guard, or some other step in the process.

USCG Boat Responsibly Logo

USCG Boat Responsibly Logo

After we wrote this post we requested assistance from USCG Office of Boating Safety and SPIN in determining what happened (should these accidents be in BARD, where did they fall through the cracks?) USCG immediately responded with a detailed analysis of the individual accidents for the group of 7 propeller accidents. The post below was updated to include USCG’s 14 July 2011 and 6 August 2011 responses. We really appreciate their quick and detailed response on the 7 accidents and for sticking with Florida to determine the source of the missing 14 accidents. SPIN is made some inquiries in Florida and we appreciate their help as well. Thanks again to USCG and SPIN for their efforts. Read More→

USCG Recreational Boating Statistics 2010

USCG Recreational Boating Statistics 2010

The boating industry continues to claim that all or almost all recreational boat propeller accidents are captured in BARD, the United States Coast Guard’s Boating Accident Report Database. This post proves that to be untrue.

USCG receives boating accident reports from the states and from Coast Guard accident reports on fatal boating accidents that occur on waters under Federal jurisdiction.

Each year, USCG summarizes all the accidents reported in BARD in their annual USCG Recreational Boating Statistics reports.

To reduce the number of unreported boating accidents of all types, in recent years, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) has hired a contractor to capture boating accidents reported in the news media. USCG uses the contractor’s news reports of boating accidents to encourage states to follow up on boating accidents that have not yet been reported through normal channels.

USCG describes their use of the news reports on page 8 of their 2010 Recreational Boating Statistics report. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that in 2010 there were 56 accidents, 11 deaths, 46 injuries, and 13 losses of vessels that were captured in the news reports for which they did not receive an accident report. These represent all types of boating accidents, not just propeller accidents.

Earlier we reported the USCG 2010 public release version of BARD had been castrated by the expulsion of data from over 20 states and many other regions.

Now we will give a closer look to BARD’s handling of U.S. 2010 recreational boat propeller accidents. Read More→

The State of California asked USCG to remove their boating accidents from BARD beginning in 2000 to protect the privacy of their citizens. Supposedly their data is still included in the summaries, but we can no longer see the details of individual boating accidents in California. Over time, a few more states have leaped on the bandwagon, and this year it seems like they all jumped on.

A few weeks back, USCG sent us a copy of the public release version of the full 2010 Boating Accident Report Database (BARD). Yesterday we started to look at it more closely. A portion of the second page of some instructional materials enclosed with the database titled, Accident Reporting Overview states:

“Not all states/jurisdictions gave the Coast Guard the permission to release records. The Coast Guard did not have permission to release data from the following jurisdictions: Alaska, American Samoa, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington. Thus, the records (1,910 accidents involving 2,549 vessels, 304 deaths and 1,308 injuries) from these states/jurisdictions were deleted.
 
In addition, there were several states that prohibited the release of some of their data. Arizona and New Jersey prohibited the release of vessel registration numbers and hull identification numbers. Thus, data in these two fields were deleted for the aforementioned two states. Massachusetts prohibited the release of medical information. Thus, data that referenced medical information such as the cause of death, primary injury, location of injury, and severity of treatment was deleted from the database.”

With full removal of data from over 20 states plus American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico the database is pretty much worthless for many tasks. Two of the states removed are very major boating states (California and Michigan) which makes matters even worse. Read More→

Litigation Testing of propeller safety devices was defined by Stephen Bolden, author of Motorboat Propeller Injury Accidents, as

“…manufacturers, in performing litigation testing, are not concerned with gathering information for the purpose of redesigning or improving a guard; rather, they are concerned with simply reporting on whatever propeller guard deficiencies they are able to demonstrate through such testing”

When manufacturers test their own products or components against certain criteria or test protocols and their products fail, those involved in the testing process often offer suggestions for improving the product. But when “legal” wants a propeller safety device tested, often against very challenging criteria, the propeller safety device fails or performs poorly in some part of the test, and nobody has any ideas of how it could be improved or ever be made to pass the test, even when the solution is extremely obvious. Read More→

1 Categories : Legal Shorts

Brunswick requested a rehearing of the Jacob Brochtrup v. Mercury Marine and Sea Ray propeller injury case before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 10, 2011. Mercury Marine and Sea Ray are both divisions of Brunswick.

On page three of Brunswick’s formal request for a rehearing, Brunswick faults Brochtrup for not providing information on the frequency or likelihood of injuries like those he received, no evidence of the number of accidents involving exposed boat propellers, and no proof of the “frequency or likelihood of injuries caused by exposed propellers on boats of this design” (Brunswick claims propeller accidents are rare events).

Then on the top of page 4, Brunswick cites some propeller accident frequency comments made by Peter Chisholm, Mercury Marine Product Safety Manager, during the original trial in U.S. District Court, Texas Western District, Austin Division:

The jury heard no evidence any closer to this subject than the testimony from Peter Chisholm, Mercury Marine’s Product Safety Manager, and that testimony did nothing to help Brochtrup on this point. Chisholm merely agreed that some unspecified number of people are injured by boat propellers each year, but he firmly denied this number was even as large as one hundred.

Read More→

0 Categories : Legal Shorts

In mid 2011, Brunswick requested a rehearing of their appeal of the Jacob Brochtrup propeller injury case in front of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Brunswick feels the original court (U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, Austin) did not force Brochtrup to prove the design of their boat was unreasonably dangerous under the Texas Risk-Utility test. Brunswick also feels they jury instructions led the jury to believe the boat had already been declared to be an unreasonably dangerous design.

The Appeals court quoted a previous decision:

“Texas requires courts addressing the risk-utility of a product to consider:

  1. the utility of the product to the user and the public weighed against the gravity and likelihood of injury from use
  2. the availability of a substitute product that is not unsafe or unreasonably expensive
  3. the manufacturer’s ability to eliminate the unsafe elements without significantly decreasing usefulness or increasing cost
  4. the user’s awareness of the product’s danger and its avoidability because the danger is obvious or there are suitable warnings or instructions
  5. consumer expectations
    Timpte, 286 S.W.3d at 311.

The appeals court went on to say Jacob Brochtrup was not required to submit the best evidence of all five risk-utility factors. Brochtrup’s evidence on the first element of his design defect claim was sufficient.

Brunswick continues to push for a full risk-utility analysis. We began to wonder why, other than just to continue to delay the outcome of this trial. Read More→

0 Categories : Legal Shorts