Recreational boating accidents in Washington

In warm weather, people flock to the waterways that crisscross, dot and abut Snohomish County. They boat, swim, kayak, canoe and raft. They seek the fresh fish, shrimp and crabs that landlocked folks only dream about. Some boaters also die, often through their ignorance or negligence.

Between 2008 and 2011, at least 10 people lost their lives in boating-related accidents in Snohomish and Island counties. There were at least 93 deaths statewide.

The state Parks and Recreation Commission’s Boating Program keeps track.

Boaters are required by law to report accidents resulting in death, presumed death, serious injuries or at least $2,000* in property damage. The data also include some reported water-related deaths that didn’t involve boating.

An estimated half of the deaths involve non-motorized boats, said Wade Alonzo, state boating law administrator.

Some of the most common factors in fatalities were people not wearing life jackets, using alcohol and drugs or falling overboard. Overloading and weather-related capsizing also were factors.

Even in summer, local waters are frigid. Hypothermia sets in within minutes.

The state looks at what might have caused each death to try to prevent a replay, Alonzo said.

The experts say education is the best path to boating safety.

Most who operate boats with at least a 15-horsepower engine must get a boater education card. In 2012, that’s anyone 40 years or younger, with some exemptions. The age cutoff rises annually until 2014, when every boater 59 and younger will be required.

More online

State regulation of recreational vessels: apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=79A.60

More about mandatory boater education: www.parks.wa.gov/boating/boatered

Correction, May 14, 2012: The dollar value was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

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