Malta Doctors Call for Propeller Safety Public Legislation & Boat Design

Three physicians on the Mediterranean Island of Malta are calling or the use of boat propeller guards. Their paper in the Malta Medical Journal covers the accident and recovery of a propeller accident victim there.

The 44 year old man was scuba diving off Malta. As he was surfacing, strong currents pushed him into the propeller of the boat he dove from. The propeller was turning, but not at maximum speed. His friends got him back on the boat, and they sped back toward shore. Luckily, one of the dive team members was a cardiac surgeon who sprang into action administering first aid, and covering the victim’s chest wound with a towel.

The report addresses propeller accident statistics in the U.S. and Canada, since no similar statics exists for boat prop accidents in Malta.

Much of the article focuses on medical procedures used to address the victim’s very serious chest wounds (one of his lungs is wide open in the photos).

Case Report: Chest Wall Reconstruction Following a Speedboat Propeller Injury.
D. Sladen, A. Chasha, and A. Manche.
Malta Medical Journal.
Vol.26. No.2. (2014).

They note there have been several other propeller injuries in Malta, but this represents the first one to have full recovery from a “severe injury to the chest.” We ( have covered some of the previous accidents there, plus listed some of their tourist prop accidents on our Tourists Being Struck and Killed by Boat Propellers in Diving / Snorkeling Areas page.

Doctors often try to leave prop wounds open a while to allow them to drain and to allow for the swelling that will soon come. But in this instance the victim could not breathe with air gushing out his chest. Doctors tried to clean the debris and sand out of him and sewed him up and tried to wire his rib cage back together so they could get some outside pressure against his lungs.

The doctors close the article by saying these accidents are not medically preventable, but should be safeguarded by public legislation and by boat design. They go on to list many of the available technologies listed on our site: “safety propellers with non-sharp edges, tunnelled drives where the propeller sits in a hollow part of the hull, sensors to stop the propeller when someone approaches, jet drives and propeller guards.”

They note some of the problems/limitations of propeller guards and jet drives, then call for the creation of a public registry of these accidents so they can be better addressed.

The paper cites 7 references, including

The abstract of the paper says:

“This report highlights the importance of legislation in preventing propeller injuries by restricting swimmer zones and introducing propeller guards or jet drive systems.”

We first became aware of the report from an article in the Times of Malta”:

Doctors Call for Boat Propeller Law.
by Claudia Calleja.
Times of Malta.
21 July 2014.

The Times of Malta article opens with a photo of a crowded recreational boats, and this quote, “The doctors want to see propeller guards on boats.”

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