People Struck by Propeller Guards

While the percentage of boats with propeller guards actually installed on them remains quite low, there are starting to be a few reports of actual strikes of people by boats using propeller guards.

  • 10 July 1988 USMC Sergeant Lohkamp fell from an outboard powered “rubber boat”. Riding by the gunnel tube in the bow area on the starboard side, he took a wave during a high speed left turn while performing training maneuvers a Camp Rilea, Oregon and fell overboard. Clad in a full wetsuit including booties, his foot went into the propeller. The outboard had a ring guard. One individual thought the Sergeant’s wetsuit was so buoyant it quickly floated him up into the propeller.
  • 28 Sept 1989 “Grisly Accidents Spark Campaign for Guards on Boat Propellers” Orlando Sentinel (FL) reports how the Institute for Injury Reduction will be encouraging the Coast Guard to require propeller guards at a November 7th advisory panel in Orlando. It reports an Alabama jury recently awarded Ashley Elliot $4.5 million in damages from Mercury Marine, but the case is on appeal. To appeal to those insisting guards created even greater hazards to swimmers in the water, Ben Hogan, lawyer supporting the Elliot family, hired a stuntman to be hit by a boat with a propeller guard. Dick Snyder of Mercury Marine (long time voice against use of prop guards), said the stuntman test was inconclusive, plus trying to limit boat owners to slower speeds is unrealistic.
  • 30 Apr 2004 Daily Post (Liverpool England) “Power Boat Racer Tells of High-Speed Crash Escape” reports Mel Pengelly, age 30 of Neston, was racing in the Thundercat series (small high powered, two man RIBs) off the Channel Islands of the coast of St. Peter Port yesterday (29 April 2004). His boat collided with another, he and his co-racer were thrown over 25 feet into the air. Mr. Pengelly recalls driving over the other boat, “the propeller guard struck the other racer’s head. I was holding the tiller at this point and could feel the impact.” The racer who was hit was taken to the hospital and told by doctors “He cannot race for at least five weeks.” (PGIC comment – he was probably wearing a helmet, but this is still amazing). Full text of the article is available from HighBeam.
  • 20 Jan 2006 Bay of Plenty Times (New Zealand) reports Tony Vercautern, a Thundercat Racer (high powered small two man RIBs) will miss this weeks race after being in an accident during a race two weeks ago. Mr. Vercautern reports, “I was actually pretty lucky – I came out of the boat (onto the beach) and one of the other boats landed on my leg. It was actually the propeller guard that did the damage but I might not have had any leg left if the prop guard hadn’t been there.”
  • 16 Nov 2006 Army The Soldiers Newspaper (Australia) Vo.11 No.56 reports “a soldier had a toe amputated and received severe cuts when his foot came into contact with the ringed propeller after he fell overboard from within the bow danger zone of a small inflatable.”
    Another incident is reported which may involve a ringed propeller, in it, a soldier injured his hand during man overboard drills.
  • August 2009 Afloat (Australian magazine) has a letter to the editor from Julian Todd attaching two photos of a Daniel Hudson, surf saving life saver, in the water after he and another person were ejected from a RIB at the NSW IRB State Championships at Towradgi SLSC last month. The unmanned RIB began to circle and ran over Hudson. He ducked and the prop guard clipped his wetsuit hat. The RIB was retrieved and he continued in the competition.
  • 9 May 2011 Yachte (Australia) reports that Saturday May 7th, a 27 year old man named Matt dove from the top deck of a houseboat at Broken Bay. He hit his head on the outboard engine cover and on a fiberglass propeller guard. Matt suffered deep head and facial wounds, a broken jaw, broken ribs, a punctured lung, a concussion, and lost some teeth. We are left on our own to imagine his injuries if a guard had not been present.