S.P.I.N. Stop Propeller Injuries Now Propeller Injury Information
S top Propeller Strikes
P rovide Support to Survivors
I nform and Educate Public Policy Legislators and Regulatory Agencies
N etwork with Victims and Their Families to Enhance Boating Safety
Stop Propeller Injuries Now Stop Propeller Injuries Now
Propeller Guard Time Line - Progress or Procrastination?


Propeller Guard Patents issued (140 +) 

The perception of danger and need to protect has a long history.


Federal Boating Act of 1958 Accident statistic requirement mandated. 

Propeller accidents were not separate. 1st, 2nd, 3rd event reporting blurred data consequences.


Federal Boat Safety Act 

No propeller injury interventions regulated. “Minimum” standards translate to “minimal” 


USCG Report “Stuck By Propeller Accidents” 

Nature and severity of injuries detailed; concluded that propeller accidents occur at the rate of 800 – 3000 annual. Called for high priority Reach and Development study.


 Fruend, Traub, Purcell Reports

Supported need for USCG action

USCG Statistician Analysis

Concluded guards would have prevented 75% of the fatalities and mitigated injury in 94% of the cases.

Senior Staff letter – Oct. 21, 1979

Comments on “Struck by Propeller” Accident Study: “the results of this analysis lead to several conclusions and recommendations… need for further research and cost effective solutions; and “two approaches…use of propeller guard or massive education and training.” 


Chadwell Guard 

Typical ring guard tested to destruction and to discredit by marine manufacturers with no alternative proposed or made available to the public. All OMC and MM testing negative – not looking for a solution, but justification for litigation.

Marine Corp continued to use ring guard rather than have no protection for their landing operations.


Technological Feasibility Reports by Hill and Reed: 

Concludes that technology exists, is feasible and can mitigate severity of consequences or prevent the accident.

“Boat and Propeller Impact Injuries and Fatalities” by Purcell & Lincoln:

Recommended specific active sampling with high level of objectivity. Recommended a “program to encourage development of safety measures and devices in the private sector… increasing public awareness.

Institute for Injury Reduction (IIR)

Letter to Admiral Yost: “Despite overwhelming evidence from your own studies “ten years later, your agency (USCG) has still failed to take steps assuring that propguards would be available to the boating public, at least as optional and preferably as standard equipment.”

BioMechanics, Inc. Report/ LE Thibault: 

"The results of this testing clearly demonstrate that the guard can substantially reduce or eliminate injury over the range of impact speeds. The results further demonstrate what has been known by the transportation industry for decades… “ 


National Boating Safety Advisory Council empanels a sub committee to study the guard issue as the Ashley Elliott decision and substantial damage award is appealed by the marine manufacturer.

Conclusions sided with industry position. No public advocate member was on the committee; no engineering expert; no minutes of much of the deliberations available from our FOIA request. One panel member, who openly resisted deliberation of propeller guarding, became Chairman of NBSAC for three terms. The Marine Industry used the NBSAC recommendation to overturn the Ashley Elliot award and to effectively stifle any advancement of a solution until SPIN appeared in l994.

NBSAC made 6 recommendations, leading with “The USCG should take no regulatory action to require propeller guards.”

Rear Admiral Yost’s addresses NBSAC recommendations, letter of 2/1/1990

The six Coast Guard positions on each of the six NBSAC recommendations contribute nothing to mitigate the nature, number or severity of prop strikes as of 2005. Studies and statistics never translated to a regulation or even a clear directive or call for voluntary compliance to a performance standard.

However, the decision not to regulate became the basis of the Sprietsma Supreme Court decision in 2002 to override federal pre- preemption (i.e. the statutory authority of the USCG to regulate) and to return this authority to the state courts to apply state common law protecting the consumer. 


LIMBO - No substantive progress is made except to initiate some grants for statistical studies, the results of which never translate to action. 

RED CROSS finds USCG collection 10% or less of all accidents 

MARINE INDEX BUREAU lowers figure to 3% 

GW UNIVERSITY STUDY recommends (as did NBSAC and SPIN) use of NEISS. As of 2005 , USCG still reviewing participation in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

CDC Study on Boat Propeller Injuries & Fatalities - Recommendations and conclusions edited before USCG accepted the final report.


“Motorboat Propeller Injuries” by Vernick & Associates, Johns Hopkins University, Injury Prevention Center 


  1. improve unbiased assessment of scope and magnitude of injuries.
  2. heighten public awareness of dangers.
  3. “require or encourage the development, testing and implementation of feasible counter measures to prevent injuries”
  4. reverse the findings of the NBSAC sub committee
  5. “reassess the feasibility of propeller guards.”
  6. “If the Coast Guard does not adequately respond… Congress should consider exercising its oversight function to hold public hearings addressing regulatory solutions to prevent propeller injuries.”

Inside Edition, Oct, l992, Executive Director USCG, senior staffer:

“If there were a reasonable expectation that they (marine manufacturers) could comply (to develop a suitable guard for their motors), that would be the way to proceed.” 

The Coast Guard has never convened the marine manufacturers for the express purpose of developing a solution. In the past five years they have given much encouragement to the after market entrepreneur but the existing grant program guidelines does not allow the Cost Guard to invest in testing to promote alternative solutions. In fact, they cannot openly endorse a solution, if such a solution has no competition. Meanwhile, major manufactures still are not participating as of 2005 (virtual improbability excluded).


Emilio Irving Cruz, killed by a houseboat propeller, Lake Havasu, AZ. 

“Emilio’s Mom” writes to the Coast Guard and begins a campaign to advocate regulation of prop guards, minimally on non planning boats (where technological feasibility is not in question) and rental boats, where the most inexperienced public participates.


 “Emilio’s Mom” and other propeller strike survivors appear before NBSAC to present “Propeller Protection: The Problem Is Solved” 

Committee was silent. One industry member over heard to say “where did she come from. I thought we had killed this issue.”

USCG statistics to capture first, second, third event in an accident scenario in order to get more complete statistics on propeller deaths and injuries.


SPIN = STOP PROPELLER INJURIES NOW! formalizes foundation to act for victims and survivors.

Shirley K. Brocchini-Jones killed by a houseboat propeller, Lake Shasta, CA

Family members become active in S.P.I.N. to support minimum guard requirements for all rental houseboats

USCG initiates federal comment period to evaluate public sentiment on need for propeller guards on recreational rental boats.

USCG receives more positive comments during this period then any other prior regulatory comment period, indicating heightened public concern.

USCG statistics further separate “struck by boat and “struck by propeller”

NBSAC Resolution recommending that rental operations be required to deliver basic boating safety education to their renters. No requirement nor follow up as of 2005 .


NBSAC developed ‘PROPELLER INTERVENTION TOOL”, a list of possible solutions as a regulatory basis. 

NBSAC subcommittee charged to “access possible interventions to avoid propeller strike accidents, considering boat operating parameters, technology and accident data. Make recommendations regarding the means of protecting people from propellers, including the potential need for Federal requirements. 

Grant Proposal for “A Test and Evaluation of Propeller Safety Devices for Small Crafts. 

“Garage Technologies” attempt to respond to new interest: including guards, pump jet and marine safety switch 

1997 - 1998  

Marine Technology Society awarded grant to study marketplace. 

Propeller Injury Protection: 

"An Evaluation of the State of the Art of Recreational Watercraft Propulsion Systems, concludes that technology exists.“

Motorboat Propeller Injuries,” Dr. Mendez-Fernandez 

Adds his medical opinion to a long list of previous doctors (Price, Moorehouse, Paterson, Sweeny, Sleight, Hummel, etc.) dating back to the late l970's, detailing the severity and costly nature of propeller injuries. 

Report details the accident of Stacey Epping, who appeared for the S.P.I.N. presentation to NBSAC in l994.


NBSAC reviewed results of 2nd phase of the grant study by MTS 

NBSAC passes unanimous resolution (199 63 02) recommending that the USCG “proceed with the development of a performance standard to prevent and minimize the occurrence of propeller strikes.” 

USCG will initiate new rulemaking action – finally published 12/10/01.



No work plan approved – no progress reported either at the spring or fall meeting of NBSAC.


USCG Published Notice of Proposed Rulemaking - comment period extends to l8 months. To effect all non-planning houseboats with propellers aft of transom. 

NBSAC Resolution 2001 67 01 recommends USCG rulemaking to prevent and minimize the occurrence of boat propeller strike accidents on all prop driven vessels 12 feet and long, new planning vessels 12 – 26 feet, all new non planning vessels 12 feet and longer and all non planning rental boats, with propellers aft of transom.

USCG to separate above into independent regulatory projects.

NBSAC resolution to shorten comment period on houseboats. 

Fish Get More Money Than People:

USCG philosophy and perceived direction from Congress is to go slow, change behavior not the marine industry, and limit safety regulations, as stated policy of the Recreation Boating Division. 

From a public perspective, this is bad policy and cannot contribute expediting innovations to boating safety. 

In addition, a totally under funded and under staffed department indicates that recreational boating is barely on the Coast Guard’s grander screen of the Coast Guard’s grander missions. Finally, the fish get more money out of Wallop Breaux than the people. 

CONGRESSIONAL Sub Committee meets to address CO Poisoning: 

Chairman LoBiondo, asks Vice Admiral Cross if propeller regulatory action is “a mission to Mars?” or an achievable present task. Cross assured the sub committee that the solution was forthcoming and the issue had high priority. Vice Chair Congresswoman Brown of Florida introduced SPIN in chambers and urged the Coast Guard to deal with the issue of propeller deaths and accidents. Member Congressman Simmons of Conn. also stated his concern and deep interest in a regulatory fix and invited SPIN to submit expanded testimony which he would enter into the official record. 


NBSAC REDEFINES April 2001 Resolution (2001-67-01) with new Resolution 2002 70 01: 

All prop vessels 12 feet and longer are required to display propeller warnings. And operators to use emergency shut off switch (kill switch) where installed. 

All new planning vessels 12 – 26 will be required to select and install at least one of the following original equipment manufacturer- supplied propeller injury avoidance measures:

(1) Operator Emergency Shut-Off Switch

(2) Boarding Ladder Ignition Interruption Switch

(3) Convert to Jet Propulsion

(4) Propeller Guard

New non planning vessels 12 feet and longer will select and install one of the following :

(1) Operator Emergency Shut-Off Switch

(2) Boarding Ladder Ignition Interruption Switch

(3) Full Cage Type Propeller Guard appropriately sized to stop        human appendages from coming into contact with the
     propeller - any design.

All non planning RENTAL boats are required to be equipped with EITHER water jet propulsion OR full cage type propeller guard on ALL of the following:

(1) Operator Emergency Shut-Off Switch - mandatory use

(2) Boarding Ladder Ignition Interruption Switch

(3) Aft Visibility Measures, where the operator's view of the
     transom above the propeller(s) is blocked, which may
     include posting a lookout.



2003 - 2005   

USCG initiates series of seminars at boat shows to discuss state of propeller technology in the market place and intention to regulate.

Phyllis Kopytko appears on panel for SPIN.

USCG does not complete draft work plan for MARINE MANUFACTURER COMPLIANCE.  As of 2005, there are the following delays:

  1. Industry does not want the responsibility to select the intervention. Industry wants clear standards from the Coast Guard to protect their liability. Industry believes the Coast Guard cannot detail an equipment standard and are against the performance standard.
  1. USCG does not know the population of boats to regulate. 12’ – 24’ may not net in the cost benefit analysis enough money per unit to install any marketplace intervention. 
  1. USCG will contact states to get boat length and type details prior to NBSAC meeting Nov. 2005




No recommendations or goals were set regarding propeller accident prevention.

Any further progress on regulatory action awaits the USCG's determination and commitment to proceed, and a current boat length census of recreational boats to be regulated...Progress or Procrastination?

S.P.I.N. Stop Propeller Injuries Now S.P.I.N. - Stop Propeller Injuries Now
2365 Conejo Court
Los Osos, CA, 93402
tel. 805-528-0554 - fax. 805-526-8756
email:  spinsafety@gmail.com