Kaden Frederick (boy age 9) killed by pontoon boat propeller in Maryland
A group of paramedics and state troopers were nearby on a pontoon boat. Six of them boarded the rented pontoon boat (NJ.com says those included two nurses, on emergency medical technician, and two off-duty troopers) to help out after Kaden’s relatives pulled him from the water. Kaden went into cardiac arrest and died.
The pontoon boat had been rented from Under the Bridge Water Sports in Ocean City Maryland.
NJ.com says the operator took a brief safety course at the rental facility before the group of 17 family members and friends departed the dock. Per NJ.com, a spokeswoman for Maryland Natural Resources Police said, “It is not legal for a person to sit with his or feet draped over the edge of a pontoon in Maryland” and that alcohol is not expected to be a factor in this accident.
The maker of the pontoon boat and outboard motor have not been publicly identified. From the rental facility website, there is a strong probability the outboard is a 90 horsepower Honda outboard.
Like many accidents, early on there is conflicting information. For example, early reports say the other child (11 year old) was taken to a local hospital with propeller lacerations. However, later reports say only one child was involved.
WDRE posted a great video with some footage of the area and the tour boat that came to the rescue.
We would especially like to commend the Daily Mail for covering of this accident. Its a shame this accident gets broad coverage in the UK, but local coverage here. Broader coverage here could help prevent future pontoon boat bow riding accidents.
This accident just adds more fuel to the fire of our recent post on 6 pontoon boat propeller accidents in 8 days, Pontoon boat propeller accident cluster: 6 media reported accidents in 8 days is anybody awake out there?
Maryland Bow Riding Laws
Early reports on this accident quoted authorities saying it is illegal to bow ride in Maryland, while a later quote from officials says it is not.
We looked into Maryland bow riding laws. Their state boating regulations handbooks says, the law prohibits negligent or grossly negligent operation of a vessel that endangers
lives and/ or property. Then they list some examples, including bow riding. After seeing some discussions online of the actual state laws it APPEARS bow riding in not specifically mentioned in State of Maryland boating laws. However, officers can address it if they feel the vehicle is being operated negligent manner.
it looks to us like any violation tied to bow riding comes under the Maryland statute below:
2015 Maryland Code
Title 8 – WATERS
Subtitle 7 – STATE BOAT ACT
§ 8-738.2 – Operating vessel in reckless or dangerous manner
Universal Citation: MD Nat Res Code § 8-738.2 (2015)
(a) Prohibited. — A person may not:
(1) Operate a vessel recklessly or in a manner that may endanger another or the property of another on a bay, creek, lake, river, or stream in the State; or
There does not appear to be a clear cut law in Maryland state code addressing bow riding. If anybody finds one, please drop us a note.
Please note- we are definitely not suggesting people should bow ride because it may not specifically be against Maryland law. We are only trying to clarify the status of Maryland law on the issue.
State of Maryland Considering Boating Safety Legislation in Wake of Accident
News media reports Maryland is discussing potential boating safety regulations in the wake of the Kaden Frederick accident. We encourage them to study things out and not make hasty decisions. They should find the information near the bottom of this page quite helpful.
We suggest they consider what other states have done that have taken action. We notice a nearby state, New Jersey, enacted a rental boating safety law in 2015 in the wake of the death of another young boy, Christopher D’Amico, by a rental pontoon boat propeller. That might be a good place to start (review what New Jersey did, how it is working out, and see if it fits your situation or not). We encourage other states to consider rental boat safety training requirements in their states as well.
For information on the New Jersey law, see out post titled, Pontoon Rental Boat Safety Training Bill Signed in New Jersey.
Preventing Over the Bow Pontoon Boat Propeller Accidents
Among the many ways to prevent or mitigate over the bow pontoon boat propeller accidents are:
- Improve rental boat education – specifically tell them of the dangers of bow riding, use the USCG educational materials, inform renters of any local laws against bow riding. See RentalBoatSafety.com. Please NOTE: we have no knowledge of the level of training provided those on board the boat involved in this accident at the time this post was made.
- Do not put pontoon boats in rental fleets if they extend forward of the front rail
- Put propeller guards on pontoon boats with top speeds of ten miles per hour or less
- On pontoon boats in which the front deck extends forward beyond the front rail, design the boat in a way making it extremely uncomfortable to sit up there when underway (see Defensive Architecture in our papers above)
- Make sure pontoon boat gate designs are VERY solid and secure
- Consider increasing height of the front rail to reduce the number of adults from falling over it
- Use high visibility warnings telling of and illustrating the dangers of bow riding
- Public Service announcements visually showing what can happen to bow riders of pontoon boats AND informing boaters of local laws against bow riding
- Continue Operation Dry Water to discourage excessive use of alcohol on the water
As we said before, most of these accidents are preventable or can be mitigated. We direct anybody interested in actually addressing this issue to three of our previous reports:
- Preventing Pontoon Boat “Over the Bow” Propeller Accidents
- Preventing Pontoon Boat Over the Bow Propeller Accidents by DESIGN
- List of over 150 over the bow pontoon boat propeller accidents