Archive for June 2012

In June 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) titled Installation and Use of Engine Cut-Off Switches on Recreational Vessels USCG-2009-0206. Among other things, the ANPR requested public comments concerning a potential future proposed rule requiring operators of certain boats to wear kill switches (like lanyard kill switches that stop the engine if the boat operator is ejected). A few states have already enacted similar requirements.

Kill Switch Lanyard on Wrist

Kill Switch Lanyard on Wrist – Image courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

USCG’s request for public comment asked for data on current kill switch (engine cut-off switch) wear rates including kill switch wear rates in states like Alabama that require them. We have since searched fairly widely and found no public data on boat kill switch wear rates or estimates of boat kill switch wear rates.

In response to the Coast Guard’s request, and several other projects, we decided to attempt to estimate kill switch wear rates from previously collected boat accident data in USCG’s Boating Accident Report Database (BARD).

BARD began collecting kill switch wear data on boat operators involved in reportable boat accidents in a separate data field in 2009. Prior to then, the redacted narrative (description of the accident) sometimes mentioned if one was used or not.

We limited our study to vessels identified as open motorboats in the accident reports. Read More→

On February 13, 2012 a male Ukrainian tourist and his friend were snorkeling off the City Sharm Hotel in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, an area of the Red Sea world renown by divers for its crystal clear water and underwater sights.

A boat came by at high speed and its propeller struck the Ukrainian in the head while his friend was filming the dive. A 13.5 minute video of the dive begins with about 3.5 minutes of the dive, the diver is struck by the propeller at about 3 minutes and 38 seconds on the video, then the video camera remains on, but very shaky during the ensuing chaos.

Diver Snorkeling Before Struck

Diver Snorkeling Before Struck

As seen in this photo taken from the video just minutes before the accident, the diver was using a mask with a yellow snorkeling tube and blue flippers as he explored the area.

We captured several still images from the video near the time of the strike that illustrate the content of the video and present them as the sequence of 11 images below. Without additional information (which we provide a request for below) many of our comments are speculation based on the video. Additional information could confirm or change them.

Plus we are aware that images are sometimes reversed by cameras or online posting methods so any comments below about left, right, port, or starboard are just being made about the way things appear to be in the images and may not be correct.

Propeller Strike Sequence Image #1

Propeller Strike Sequence Image #1

It only takes something of the nature of two seconds from the boat appearing in the top left area of the video at a distance a few times further away than it appears in the image above until the diver is struck. The diver is just below the surface, probably looking downward and not seeing the oncoming boat, while breathing through the yellow tube. Read More→

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa Western Division filed documents yesterday (June 12, 2012) stating the court has been advised the case has been settled and the parties anticipate no further action beyond filing a stipulated dismissal.

We covered this case involving the death of a young boy earlier in our Estate of David Paul McFarlin and Jamie Laass vs. Brunswick Corporation (Mercury Marine and Lund Company) and Others post.

In addition, we posted some lists of similar accidents (boats striking dredge pipes and outboard motors striking objects and flying back up into boats).

We also created a series of posts on the history of log strike testing (on water, dry land impact testing, and computer simulated) in response to the industry’s response to a 1950’s log strike test film in this case.

The PACER Court document system indicates a separate suit was filed on May 30, 2012 against the marina (Lakeside Marina in Storm Lake Iowa).

While these settlements are typically secret, since this one involved a city, we were able to obtain the documents the city approved for payment. Those documents indicate the settlement was for $1.2 million of which:

  • $800,000 is to be paid by the City of Storm Lake, Buena Vista County, and the Lake Improvement Commmission
  • $199,999 is to be paid by Harry Foote (the boat operator)
  • $300,000 is to be paid by Brunswick Corporation

Checks are to be written to the attorney, “Munger, Reinschmidt & Denne, L.L.P., for the benefit of the Estate of David Paul McFarlin, Jamie Laass, and Stevie Long.” The actual division of funds will be:

  • $200,000 to the Estate of David Paul McFarlin (the deceased young boy)
  • $974,999 to Jamie Lass (the mother)
  • $25,000 to Stevie Long (the deceased boy’s sister)

The City, County, and Lake Commission also agree to provide additional information and testimony in any future litigation against other non protected parties in this accident.

The City of Storm Lake notes most of their payment will be covered by their insurer. The City’s insurer (EMC) will also cover any legal fees or settlement cost of city employees named in the suit outside of any personal attorney fees they incurred on their own.

Some litigation is still in progress. The deceased boy’s father has filed a suit as has the family of the other boy injured in the accident. Plus action is still proceeding against other parties not involved in this settlement.

20 November 2013 Update – one of the separate cases, Estate of David Paul McFarlin by its Personal Representative, Jamie Laass, v. Lakeside Marina, Inc, focused on the lack of warnings about the dredge pipe at the marina the family launched the boat from. Lakeside Marina motioned for Summary Judgement (claiming they had no duty to warn) and the motion was granted on 24 October 2013, effectively dismissing the case against the marina. The case was in the same court, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa Western Division.

We were a bit surprised by the ruling in the marina case. Marinas are basically entryways to lakes and make their living off the lake being there. A marina is somewhat like a booth taking money from you when you enter a campgrounds (except the marina does not own the lake). While it might seem logical for the marina to owe a duty to its users to warn them of nearby unseen dangers on the lake, and if you were launching your boat from a marina you would hope the marina would warn you of those unseen dangers, attorneys were unable to convince the judge that the marina owed a legal duty to its users to warn them of such dangers.

0 Categories : Legal Shorts

PGIC Goes Mobile

by Gary

Yesterday, 4 June 2012, we launched a mobile version of the Propeller Guard Information Center ( allowing cell phone and other small display users to more easily navigate our recreational boating propeller safety site.

Mobile users (except iPads) are automatically directed to the mobile version. They can still access the normal version from a link at the bottom of each page.

At the moment, we provide mobile users with the PAGES menu (top menu on the full site). They will still have to switch to the full version to view the BLOG CATEGORIES menu (lower of the two menus on the full site). We made that decision based on the length of the menus and only being able to present one menu. If our mobile users also request access to the BLOG menu, we can add it, but the resulting combined menu will be quite long.

We especially welcome comments from mobile users about any problems or suggestions you may have for our new mobile version.

0 Categories : Miscellaneous