Archive for news media

A flurry of boat boat propeller accidents in Ocean City, Maryland has many talking about the recent cluster of accidents.

As we scanned the news this morning (24 August 2016) our eyes were drawn to a DelmarvaNow headline, “In Ocean City, Propeller Accidents Chop Up Vacations”. DelmarvaNow is part of the USAToday media network. DelmarvaNow is named for a large peninsula that includes most of Delaware and parts of Virginia and Maryland.

Original DelmarvaNow headline

Original DelmarvaNow headline

Boating communities, like Ocean City, have long been known for minimal coverage of boating accidents because such coverage can drive boaters and tourists away (AND ADVERTISERS with connections to those activities which is most of them in a resort community).

Our observations, some of which have been documented, are the U.S. media fails to cover many fatal boating accidents, only locally covers those they do, and uses much tamer (less shocking) headlines and photos than the rest of the world. Read More→

Media (television, printed, radio, online, movies, etc.) all have an impact on public perception of the danger of boat propellers, on the public’s awareness of steps to be taken to improve their safety, on public awareness of potential solutions, on public awareness of regulations and proposed regulations, and on the ability of both sides of the issue to make their points within the industry and to the public as a whole. This is true not only within the U.S., but across the world.

It is also important to recognize many different media segments impact boat propeller safety, including: Read More→

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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→

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 third in a series of posts investigating news media coverage of propeller accidents. We continue with our study using news media coverage of the Gabby DeSouza February 5, 2011 boat propeller accident as our example. This one follows our Phase 2 The Hospital Stay Wordle.

This time we analyzed several news media articles of her release from St. Mary’s Medical Center (the hospital). The specific articles we used are listed briefly below:

  • Palm Beach Post. March 24, 2011
  • Sun Sentinel. March 24, 2011
  • WPBF. March 25, 2011.

Now we would anticipate seeing thanks and gratitude being expressed, some comments from family members, and lots of hugs from the medical staff and other caregivers. Read More→

This article is a continuation of our series investigating news media coverage of propeller accidents by using wordles of a collection of news articles about a specific accident. It follows, Phase 1 Breaking News Coverage of Propeller Accidents.

We continue to study news media coverage of the same boat propeller accident, Gabby DeSouza injured by a boat propeller Februrary 5, 2011 near Palm Beach Florida.

This time we analyze a group of news media reports shortly after she had been in the hospital for a month. The five specific articles we used to create the wordle are briefly listed below.

  • CBS12. March 8, 2011
  • Palm Beach Post News. March 10, 2011
  • WPTV. March 10, 2011
  • TCPalm. March 11, 2011
  • KPLC 7News. March 15, 2011

As mentioned in our Phase 1 post, we would anticipate seeing her name, learning some more about her, some mention of finances, physical therapy, prosthesis, surgeries, her family and her interactions with her friends. Read More→

We mentioned in our earlier post on using wordles to explore propeller safety topics our intention of using wordles to identify common threads in media coverage of propeller accidents. For those not familiar with wordles, they are a form of word art in which the relative size of a word represents its relative frequency in the text being studied. This post is the first of a series exploring the use of wordles to better understand news media coverage of propeller accidents.

As we have looked at thousands of news reports of propeller accidents and their victims, we see common threads in printed and televised news media coverage, especially in the coverage of high profile propeller accidents resulting in critically injuries. News media coverage of a propeller accident typically begins with a news bulletin including the sex and approximate age of the victim, the location of the accident, date and approximate time of the accident, a mention of the propeller being or possibly being involved, and citing officials on the scene. These initial reports also often mention the victim being life flighted by a specific service to a named hospital. Law enforcement officials often mention an investigation is in progress to determine the cause of the accident and may note alcohol or negligence on the behalf of others may have contributed to the accident. Other family members on the scene are sometimes identified by position only (father, mother, brother, uncle) and not by name. The area of their body struck by the propeller is often identified (legs, thigh, arm, torso, etc.). Read More→