Tragic disappearance highlights lifejackets

The tragic disappearance of a man crab fishing at Uretiti Beach in Northland highlights the importance of wearing lifejackets.

Police report the man was blown offshore in strong winds on Sunday. He was in a small inflatable boat while setting crab pots. He was wearing a wet suit but no lifejacket.

About 400 metres from shore the boat capsized or the man fell overboard. He tried to swim ashore against the wind and waves. Searchers have not been able to find him and he is presumed to have drowned.

Maritime NZ Deputy Director and Chair of the Safer Boating Forum, Lindsay Sturt, said as summer approaches more than 1 million New Zealanders are expected to take to the water in 960,000 recreation boats.

Last year 27 people died in recreational boating accidents and to date this year another 17 have died.

“Always wear lifejackets, is the Forum’s message because at least two-thirds of recreational boating deaths could be prevented if people wore lifejackets,” Mr Sturt said.

“More than 90 per cent of people who die while recreational boating are men, usually between 30 and 60. Every one of them was a father, brother, son, husband and friend,” Mr Sturt said.

“Such deaths are devastating to the families and communities involved, and in many cases could be prevented by following basic safe boating rules, including wearing lifejackets.”

Recreational boating often involves family and friends. Maritime rules make the skipper responsible for each person on board having a life jacket or buoyancy aid.
“Most councils require lifejackets to be worn,” Mr Sturt said. “It is just common sense. Most accidents occur suddenly with no warning. When that happens it is too late to try to find and put on a lifejacket.”

It is also important to have the right type of lifejacket. Consider the type of boating you do, the distance from shore you intend to go, and the kind of conditions you are likely to encounter.

Lifejackets provide more than flotation. They allow a person in the water to keep still thereby conserving energy and helping to avoid the effects of cold on breathing and muscle coordination.