Introduction

This page pulls together various resources covering houseboat propeller injury statistics.

If you are interested in houseboat propeller injuries, we also encourage you to visit the page for our report on USCG’s withdrawal of proposed houseboat propeller safety regulation USCG-2001-10163. In addition to the report, updates are also posted there.


Houseboat Propeller Accident Statistics

The U.S. Coast Guard Boating Accident Report Database, BARD, is the primary source used by many to estimating the number of boating accidents and boating injuries of various types. BARD has several peculiarities that become increasingly important when its data is segmented to the boat type and/or accident type level. We strongly encourage everyone to read our Propeller Accident Statistics page before proceeding. Without a basic understanding of the limitations of BARD and other discussions there, you will not be able to fully understand the discussion below.

First, as mentioned on our Propeller Accident Statistics page, in the past, many have either been uninformed, or specifically tried to mislead others by citing Event 1 accidents as representing the total number of accidents, injuries and fatalities. The U.S. Coast Guard records boating accidents as a series of events. For example if two boats collided (Event 1), then someone fell overboard (Event 2), and a person was subsequently struck by the propeller (Event 3), the propeller strike would be listed in the statistics as an Event 3 accident. The propeller accident just described would not appear in the Event 1 statistics. In modern BARD propeller strikes are typically most often listed as Event 2. Thus, totals for Event 1 propeller accidents represent only a small portion of the total number of propeller accidents.

Others have provided what they claim to be the total number of propeller accidents, when in fact it is only the number of fatal propeller accidents reported by the U.S. Coast Guard. Still others have listed the number of rental houseboat propeller accidents and referred to it as the total number of houseboat propeller accidents. Plus almost none of those reporting accident counts mention Coast Guard boating accident data in general is vastly under reported. You need to be a very careful reader and check the author’s facts (including ours) before accepting any statistics provided.

We would especially like to thank the U.S. Coast Guard for gathering and maintaining most of the sources used for the statistics below, for making several of them available online and for supplying us an electronic copy of the BARD database tables.

In terms of a very quick bottom line answer to how many houseboat propeller accidents occur in the U.S. annually – from 1995 to 2005, zero to four houseboat propeller accidents were logged in BARD each year, not including those occurring in the State of California. About half of these reported houseboat propeller accidents were reported to occur in rental houseboats. Note, many people think propeller accidents are vastly under reported, plus we found some evidence there may be additional houseboat propeller accidents recorded in the Coast Guard Database, but labeled as occurring in other types of boats.

If you become aware of any houseboat propeller injury statistics or accidents not listed on this site, find any errors, or have any comments, questions, or feedback about the site, please contact us.


The Data

Data used in the discussions below comes from these sources:

  • NMMA Response – 1991-2000 BARD data supplied in a National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) response to a U.S. Coast Guard request for comments on a proposed rule.
  • U.S. Dept of Transportation Data – 1995-2001 BARD database tables online as part of the U.S. Dept of Transportation web site.
  • U.S. Coast Guard BARD Data Tables– 1995-2005 BARD database tables supplied us by the U.S. Coast Guard in Sept. 2006.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Docket 10299 includes printed versions of querries of BARD tables for:
    • Report: Recreational Fatal Boating Accident Data; Propeller Strikes 1988 – 1993
    • Report: Recreational Boating Accident Data; Propeller Strikes 1988 – 1993
    • Report: Recreational Boating Accident Data; Propeller Strikes 1994
    • Boating Accident Report Coding Instructions
    • NOTE – the USCG BARD data is typically “coded” as numbers or letters and you must look up the “code” to understand each entry AND those codes can change over time. For example, in recent years houseboats are “Boat Type” 4, while in the earlier data they are “Boat Type” 8. Plus the earlier coding data (prior to 1993) was for struck by Boat or Propeller, while more recent data is for struck by Motor or Propeller.

    • U.S. Coast Guard Boating Statistics Annual Reports
    • U.S. Small Business Administration Advocacy Response response to a U.S. Coast Guard request for comments on a proposed rule.
    • Our Media Coverage of Propeller Accidents section with its pages covering media reports of individual propeller accidents by year.
    • Newspaper Accounts
    • Legal Cases
    • National Park Service Accident Reports
    • Responses to U.S. Coast Guard requests for comments in this area (DOT docket files on proposed regulations and general information requests)
    • Our Own Compilation – We compiled bits and pieces of information from the above sources into a single spreadsheet
    • Closely examining each accident involving boats 30 feet or longer in length
    • Looking in the Manufacturer column for known houseboat manufacturers
    • Looking in the MIC (Manufacturer Identification Code) of Hull Identification Numbers (HIN) column for known hull codes representing houseboat builders
    • Looking in the Boat Model column for the word houseboat
    • Closely looking at longer boats in the database identified as Boat Type = “Cabin Motor Boat”
    • NMMA Response
    • U.S. Dept of Transportation Data
    • Recently Supplied U.S. Coast Guard Data Tables
    • U.S. Coast Guard Boating Statistics Annual Reports
    • Our Media Coverage of Propeller Accidents section
    • Newspaper Accounts
    • Legal Cases
    • Responses to U.S. Coast Guard requests for comments

  • The NMMA Data

    The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) responded to the U.S. Coast Guard’s request for input on a proposed rule for non planing houseboats posted in the Federal Register in December 2001. NMMA supplied some propeller strike accident reports from BARD as part their response. Those accidents can be viewed online as part of the Coast Guard’s 10163 Docket as pages 15-27 of NMMA’s response. This data covers the time period of 1991-2000. The NMMA response can be best understood if you print it off and separate the first six pages (covering rental houseboats) from the last six pages (covering all houseboats). Then tape each of the six pages of each section end to end (create a spreadsheet that is horizontally six pages long). Note the “All Houseboats” list appears to include accidents from 1991-2000 (two years longer than the other list). We used the “All Houseboats” data to check for rental accidents occurring in those two years, none were identified as rentals.

    These statistics show a total of 17 rental houseboat propeller accidents and a total of 50 houseboat propeller accidents (rental plus non-rental). Note the full page and the exact number of 50 accidents listed may indicate the database just listed the first 50 or printed the first page and there may be more? The 5th page of the rental houseboat accidents page indicates “No Proper Lookout” as a leading cause of the propeller accidents listed. “No Proper Lookout” is listed as a cause in 7 of the rental houseboat accidents and in 12 of the All Houseboats propeller accidents.

    NOTE- although the NMMA marks the file as “Propeller Accidents”, it includes accidents in which someone was “Struck by Boat”, “Stuck by Propeller/Engine”, or “Struck by Boat or Propeller”. A close reading of the actual data indicates some of those listed as “Struck by Boat or Propeller” or “Struck by Boat” were probably struck by the boat or an appendage of it (ladder, etc). The “All Houseboats” data lists 50 boats. The line numbers of those listed as being “Stuck by Propeller/Engine” are 1,3,4,6,7,8,9,10,12,13,14,17,20,22,23,24,25,26,28,29,40,42,45,48. Note lines 24 and 25 are two houseboats involved in the same accident.

    Also note the State of California ceased supplying complete individual accident reports to the U.S. Coast Guard in 2000 and asked them to quit making their previous data public. The last California houseboat propeller accident listed in the NMMA response is on line 26 (13 July 1996). It is possible, there were other California accidents from that date forward that are not listed in this data.

    The houseboat propeller data as supplied by the NMMA can be summarized as:

    Rental Houseboats All Houseboats
    Year Accidents Accidents
    1991 1 1
    1992 4 6
    1993 3 7
    1994 3 3
    1995 3 8
    1996 1 4
    1997 0 0
    1998 2 7
    1999 0 9
    2000 0 5

    Notes:
    1. Data above includes some “Struck by Boat” and “Struck by Boat or Propeller” accidents.

    2. Data above is the number of accidents, sometimes more than one person is injured by a propeller in a single accident.

    We then reduced the data above to include only those accidents involving “Stuck by Propeller/Engine” (accidents # 1,3,4,6,7,8,9,10,12,13,14,17,20,22,23,24,25,26,28,29,40,42,45,48). Note 24 & 25 are two houseboats involved in the same accident. The table below is from this portion of the NMMA data, those labeled as “Struck by Propeller/Engine”.

    Accidents Specifically Listed as “Struck by Propeller/Engine”
    Rental Houseboats All Houseboats
    Year Accidents Accidents
    1991 1 1
    1992 3 4
    1993 3 6
    1994 1 1
    1995 2 4
    1996 1 3
    1997 0 0
    1998 0 0
    1999 0 3
    2000 0 1
    Notes:
    1. Data above is the number of accidents, sometimes more than one person is injured by a propeller in a single accident.

    2. Accident 24 & 25 are the same accident (involves two houseboats) we only listed it as one above. Both were listed in the USCG data as non-rental boats.

    3. Accident 14 has a “U” in the rental column which we interpreted it to be “Unknown” and listed in the All category, but not in the rental category.

    4. Four accidents in the data supplied by the NMMA were marked as “Struck by Boat or Propeller” (accidents # 2,11,15,16). They are NOT included in the table above. Nor were the remaining accidents which were labeled as “Struck by Boat”. It is possible some of both those groups were actually struck by a propeller.

    5. The “All Houseboats” column of the Accidents Specifically Listed as “Struck by Propeller/Engine” table above is in exact agreement with the SBA table also presented on this page for the years they overlap, except for two exceptions described in the SBA section.

    U.S. Dept of Transportation Data – Online 1995-2001 BARD Database Tables

    The advantage this data is it still includes the California accidents for this time frame that have since been individually removed from the BARD data currently being supplied by the U.S. Coast Guard. It is less friendly to search than the data tables provided us by the U.S. Coast Guard in that it requires you to learn and search for the various codes used to represent various accidents types, conditions, boat types, etc (Such as Houseboats are Boat Type 4, Propeller accidents are Accident Type 14 and Laceration injuries are Injury Type 17). Plus we found it difficult to properly link the various tables together (Injury Table, Deceased Table, Primary Table, Vessel Table) without loosing some of the reports that were not perfectly formatted.

    As mentioned earlier, this data (one set of tables for each year) is online as part of the U.S. Dept of Transportation web site.

    U.S. Coast Guard BARD Data Tables – 1995-2005 BARD Database Tables Supplied to us by the U.S. Coast Guard in Sept 2006

    These tables (one set for each year) are by far the friendliest, but you must have and be familiar with a database program (such as Microsoft Access) and be able to generate your own queries and reports. As noted earlier, these tables do not contain California boating accident reports. The various Tables are already properly crosslinked and the data is cleaner than the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) tables mentioned earlier. The data is “Read Only” to prevent you from altering it. We saved an extra copy to make sure we kept one pristine, then converted one to allow us access to the data so we could generate the queries for each year, then turned them back into “Read Only”.

    This set of tables is much friendlier allowing natural text/word queries, instead of forcing you to learn all the entry codes.

    In terms of straight data as presented by the BARD Database supplied to us by the U.S. Coast Guard in Sept 2006, we identified the following number of Rental Houseboat Propeller Accidents, Non-Rental Houseboat Propeller Accidents, and Total Houseboat Propeller Accidents” per year. Note – it our belief that some houseboat propeller accidents listed as non-Rental may actually be rental houseboat accidents. The rental/non-rental data may have just not been collected and left blank. This is born out later in one case in which we have a newspaper account of an accident indicating the houseboat was a rental, when it is listed in BARD as a non-rental. It is also borne out by location. Several of the injuries are in areas strongly served by rental houseboat companies (Shasta Lake, Lake Mead, etc). Also note as mentioned earlier, this data does not include California accidents.

    We created the table below by using Microsoft Access queries to identify each propeller injury (sometimes requiring multiple “or” statements as different combinations of words were used sometimes to describe “Struck by Propeller/Engine” accidents. Then we narrowed that list to a query that only included houseboats to identify the houseboat propeller accidents. Then we manually counted the number of accidents listed as rentals or non-rentals for each year.

    Houseboat Struck by Propeller/Engine Accidents BARD Database Tables Furnished to Us Sept 2006 by USCG
    Year Rental Houseboats Non-Rental Houseboats All Houseboats
    1995 1 2 3
    1996 1 1 2
    1997 0 0 0
    1998 0 0 0
    1999 0 3 3
    2000 0 1 1
    2001 1 0 1
    2002 0 0 0
    2003 2 1 3
    2004 0 0 0
    2005 3 1 4

    Potential Additional Misclassified Accidents

    Then we set out to see if there might be additional houseboat accidents in the BARD data that may have somehow been mislabeled or improperly categorized. We used the tables recently supplied to us by the U.S. Coast Guard in combination with the Online tables to include the California data. As mentioned earlier, we had first listed each propeller injury (sometimes requiring multiple “or” statements as different combinations of words were used sometimes to describe “Struck by Propeller/Engine” accidents. Then we narrowed that list to a query that only included houseboats to identify the houseboat propeller accidents.

    Next we went back to the first table (propeller accidents in all types of boats) and looked for other houseboat accidents that may have been labeled improperly as occurring in a boat type other than a houseboat. We did this by:

    This process identified several accidents that appear to be houseboat accidents that have been misclassified. This can easily happen, as each state has its own forms, many are only able to capture part of the data, leaving someone later to guess at a boat type, plus some forms may not even have a houseboat to “check off” as the vessel type involved. Most of the vessels we consider to be improperly labeled were labeled as “Cabin Motor Boat” in the BARD data.

    We also identified a few accidents that “might” be houseboats, we are not as certain about them as were are about the group described above.

    Our review of the data was not terribly extensive. A stronger look at it may surface even more houseboat accidents that may have been misclassified.

    The individual accidents identified by this process are listed in the spreadsheet file by year, presented in the Our Own Compilation segment near the end of this page.

    Note – Commercial marine accidents are not reported in BARD. There has been some confusion in the past about exactly what a commercial accident is (does it include guided fishing boats, guided hunters, rental boats, and other similar operations?) Some normal rented houseboats may have been excluded from the BARD stats in the past as commercial use, but especially those rented by commercial establishments such as a company renting a houseboat for entertaining guests, a company renting a houseboat for a training retreat, a company renting a houseboat to survey marine life, a city renting a houseboat for a celebration, etc). Accidents involving “commercial” houseboats like these may still be found in other USCG databases.

    U.S. Coast Guard Boating Statistics Annual Reports

    The annual boating statistics reports supplied by the U.S. Coast Guard includes accidents meeting certain critera from the states that reported. Several states report only summary data and not detailed individual accident data due to privacy reasons. Data from those states may not always be show at the detail level. The information below was gleaned from recent USCG Boating Statistics annual reports and more specifically, from their “Type of Accidents by Type of Vessel” table. This data is sometimes quoted by others as representing the total number of houseboat propeller accidents, however it only includes those accidents in which someone was injured as Event 1. Plus it does not include houseboat propeller accidents not reported to the Coast Guard or any houseboat propeller accidents that may be included in the database, but incorrectly labeled as another type of boat.

    Houseboat Struck by Motor or Propeller Event 1 Accidents From USCG Boating Statistics annual summaries
    Year Number of Type 1 Accidents
    1997 0
    1998 0
    1999 2
    2000 2
    2001 0
    2002 1
    2003 3
    2004 0
    2005 3
    2006 ?

    U.S. Small Business Administration Advocacy Response

    In March 2002 the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy responded to the U.S. Coast Guard’s request for input on a proposed rule for non planing houseboats posted in the Federal Register. The SBA supplied some propeller strike accident data for rental and non-rental houseboats from 1991-1999 BARD data as part of their response. Their interpretation of the BARD data can be viewed online as part of their letter on the Coast Guard’s 10163 Docket as page 12 of SBA’s response. We reproduced the tables they supplied below.

    Rental Houseboats All Houseboats
    Year Injury Fatality Total Injury Fatality Total
    1991 1 0 1 1 0 1
    1992 3 0 3 4 0 4
    1993 1 1 2 5 1 6
    1994 1 0 1 0 0 0
    1995 1 1 2 3 1 4
    1996 1 0 1 3 0 3
    1997 0 0 0 0 0 0
    1998 0 0 0 0 0 0
    1999 0 0 0 2 0 2

    A quick comparison of the SBA data for total accidents for all houseboats with a similar table produced from data provided by the NMMA above reveals only two discrepancies in the total number of accidents per year. First, the NMMA shows “One” in 1994 which is obvious even in the SBA data. The SBA shows “One” rental accident in their table, but “Zero” for a total. They just failed to properly add up the two groups of accidents. Second, the NMMA data shows “Three” accidents in 1999, while the SBA data only shows “Two”. We rechecked the NMMA data entries very closely and there are three accidents very clearly labeled as “Struck by Propeller/Engine”, we also checked them in the actual BARD data and found one each from the states of TX, GA, UT (meaning one was not dropped due to occurring in California). We do not understand why the third accident (whichever one of the three it is, is not listed).

    SBA Houseboat Propeller Accident Chart

    SBA Houseboat Propeller Accident Chart

    The SBA Advocacy group then took their data above and constructed a chart and stated it showed a trend in reduction of houseboat accidents. Although the chart is labeled as “Houseboat Propeller Accidents Are Declining”, the data plotted on the chart only represents “Rental Houseboat Accidents”. The SBA says they used a “ordinary least squares” method to plot the line. Interestingly, the SBA chart above does indicate one propeller accident in 1994 (the rental propeller accident discussed above that does not appear in their table for total accidents in 1994.)

    Our Media Coverage of Propeller Accidents section

    In 1996 we began gathering information on major boating accidents (of all types) that received national exposure, as well as on local boating accidents in our area. We have been posting that information on our RBBI.com site as we encounter it. In late December 2004 we began to ramp up our coverage of propeller accidents, moving from those easily spotted in the national news, to making efforts to capture a growing percentage of those covered by local press around the country. At that time, we launched what later became known as our Propeller Accidents Blog and is now called our Media Coverage of Propeller Accidents section where we use individual pages to cover media reports of propeller accidents by year. As time has allowed, we have tried to fill in some of the older propeller accidents (prior to 2004), some accidents outside the U.S., and some accidents from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. Our Media Coverage of Propeller Accidents section contains news reports for several houseboat accidents. We searched through this data to find houseboat accidents that might not have been listed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

    Responses to U.S. Coast Guard requests for comments

    On several occasions, the U.S. Coast Guard has requested comments from industry and the general public surrounding gathering information for potential regulations in this area, as well as comment on proposed regulations and comments on propeller injury intervention devices.

    Some of these comments are online in the Dept of Transportation (DOT) docket files. Several hundred documents are in these files. We randomly browsed them looking for people talking about specific houseboat propeller accidents. Several people mentioned high profile houseboat propeller accidents already present in the Coast Guard data, many others talked about specific propeller accidents on other types of vessels, and a few talked about specific accidents but did not identify the vessel type. We did find one well documented, May 1993 houseboat propeller accident that is not listed by the U.S. Coast Guard’s BARD database.

    Our Own Compilation – Our Table of Houseboat Propeller Accidents

    We combined all the data sources listed earlier:

    Plus additional accidents found in a closer examination of the U.S. Coast Guard BARD database tables – see the discussion of Potential Additional Misclassified Accidents.

    We also added a few houseboat accidents identified outside the United States.

    Our list DOES NOT include several Canal Boat / Narrowboat propeller accidents in the U.K. Canal boats are long narrow boats that look like somewhat houseboats and are used in canals. For example see this canal boat Sept 2006 accident flyer from MAIB (Marine Accident Investigation Branch) of the U.K. concerning a 31 July 2006 accident). As you can see, situations are fairly similar to rental houseboats, except for the navigation of locks and the lack of large open water.

    We logged all the houseboat propeller injury accidents by year into an Excel file. We listed those included in BARD and identified by the USCG as houseboats first. Then followed them with U.S. houseboat propeller accidents not included in BARD, propeller accidents in BARD that appear to be houseboats but are classified as other boat types, and houseboats propeller accidents outside the U.S. The file also includes some houseboat propeller accidents from many years ago.

    Our List of Houseboat Propeller Accidents

    Our pdf list of houseboat propeller accidents is a bit difficult to read (rows are pretty long) and is best viewed on a large monitor. It is the most complete list of houseboat propeller accidents we are aware of. If you are aware of any not listed, please contact us.
    UPDATE- a 2 February 2013 houseboat accident in Australia has not yet been added to our list. Details can be seen on our 2013 Accidents Page.

    Under Reporting of Houseboat Propeller Accidents

    The U.S. Coast Guard acknowledges most boating accidents go unreported. They suggest the more severe accidents have a greater probability of being reported and state they feel they currently collect data on very close to 100 percent of boating accidents involving fatalities. Both sides of the propeller issue have opposing stands on how many houseboat propeller accidents go unreported. Those opposing regulations in this area say they are all or almost all reported, while those supporting action in this area say only a very small portion of them are actually reported. See the Under Reporting section of our Propeller Injury Statistics and Data Page for information on several studies estimating the under reporting of propeller injuries.


    Questions & Feedback

    If you have any comments or questions about the statistics of other information on this site, or feedback about the site, please contact us.

Print Friendly