Archive for September 2011

The boating industry has long objected to propeller guards. One of their frequent objections is the possibility that someone might become entrapped in the propeller guard (physically caught on the prop guard). We find their objection interesting considering we frequently encounter reports of boat propeller accidents in which people were entrapped in open propellers.

Swimmers and those who fall overboard can have their clothing or life jackets caught in the propeller. Others have their bodies impaled by the propeller and remain caught on the propeller somewhat like a fishing hook with the propeller embedded in their leg or trunk. Still others have been trapped between twin propellers.

These accidents are sometimes referred to as propeller entangled, propeller entanglement, propeller entrapment, entrapped by a boat propeller, and a host of other phrases.

A list of some of the occurrences of boat propeller victims being caught on propellers, entrapped by propellers, impaled on propellers, or having their leg embedded by a propeller follows: Read More→

We often see media reports referring to propeller strikes as very rare or freak events, while shark attacks are trumpeted as an ever present danger. While both events share some potentially horrible outcomes and spark fear in victims and onlookers, propeller accidents are actually much more frequent.

This post is being written in response to a column in the Newport Beach Independent over the weekend: Surprise! Proposed Boating Regulation Would Make Things Worse. Newport Beach Independent. September 9, 2011.


Shark photo by Gary Polson

In his column, Roger Bloom discusses the recent U.S. Coast Guard Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) pertaining to shutting the engines down when swimmers are near the rear of the vessel to prevent propeller strikes and carbon monoxide poisoning. Mr. Bloom feels the proposed rule would cause more problems that it would solve. While we do not agree with several of his statements, we were shocked to find him stating that shark attacks are more prevalent that propeller strikes. Read More→

Stephen Keller’s fatal boat propeller accident on Lake Tahoe Saturday August 27, 2011 was covered by San Jose California’s Mercury News, because Stephen Joseph Keller DDS was a dentist in San Jose. Mercury News’ August 31st coverage of the boating accident made a major error in reporting the number of annual United States deaths by recreational boat propellers.

Mercury News said there were 3 U.S. boat propeller deaths in 2009 and 1 in 2010 “according to annual data compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard”.

However, the U.S. Coast Guard annual reports actually indicate 25 recreational boat propeller fatalities in 2009, and 27 in 2010.

In the Stephen Keller accident, Mr. Keller, a 46 year old dentist from San Jose, was the passenger of a rental boat docking at Chambers Landing on the west shore of Lake Tahoe about 4 pm Saturday August 27. He was onboard with four more men from the Bay area. The boat operator was trying to get the boat in position to dock. The boat lurched forward, Mr. Keller fell over the stern and was struck by the propeller. Stephen Keller died at the scene.

A San Jose Mercury News August 31, 2011 article, San Jose Dentist Dies After Falling Into Boat Propeller, covering the death of Stephen Keller upped the ante on how wrong the media can get the statistics. The media often misstates total injury statistics, Mercury News misstated total fatalities. The U.S. Coast Guard reports boating accidents as a series of events and their annual statistics are based upon the order in which those events occur. For example, Stephen Kelly fell overboard (Event 1), and was then struck by the propeller (Event 2). Mercury News only reported the number of propeller strikes in which being struck by a propeller was the first event (Event 1). USCG only reported one Event 1 propeller fatality in 2010 and 3 in 2009. But they reported a total of 27 propeller fatalities in 2010 and 25 in 2009.

Propeller Accident Report San Jose Mercury News

Propeller Accident Report San Jose Mercury News

San Jose California’s Mercury News, reported Event 1 data and claimed it represented the total number of propeller fatalities.

Before we go further, I would like to express our sympathies to the family and friends of Dr. Stephen Keller DDS. We followed the boating accident in several news reports and observed an outpouring of love from many for their beloved dentist and friend. We wish them comfort in their time of grief. Read More→

Mercury Marine inflatable boat

Mercury Marine inflatable

While reviewing the U.S. Coast Guard’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on boat engine cut-off switches (lanyard kill switches), USCG-2009-0206, we noticed USCG included a 2008 review of their BARD (Boating Accident Report Database) in which USCG identified boat propeller accident injuries and fatalities from 2002 through 2006 that could have been prevented if the boat operator had been using an engine cut-off switch.

U.S. Coast Guard’s report on preventable accidents is available from their USCG-2009-0206 docket folder by using the red PDF icon about 2/3 the way down the right side of the Preventable Deaths and Injuries Report page. The version of the document currently posted was last revised in May 2010.

In their review of boat kill switch preventable accidents, USCG does a great job of explaining in detail how they identified accidents that might have been preventable from the BARD data. They also explain in detail the process used to review the selected BARD accident reports to make a determination if they could have been prevented by an engine cut-off switch or not. Read More→

0 Categories : Regulations