Articles Posted in Boating Accidents

The death of a 13-year-old boy in a boating accident on Hagg Lake in Washington County has highlighted a number of safety issues we all need to keep in mind during this holiday weekend and in the coming weeks before fall sets in.

According to The Oregonian, the boy died “after he was hit by a motorboat.” A 21-year-old man “was arrested and is facing charges of boating under the influence, second-degree manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person.” The newspaper quotes a Washington County sheriff’s spokesman saying that he was not sure whether the boy was swimming or wading at the time he was struck, but that it is clear the fatal incident occurred “not very far off the shore.”

Terrible tragedies like this always raise a significant number of legal issues. A few of those are touched on by The Oregonian, such as reckless endangerment and BUI (the boating equivalent of DUI), which is specifically governed by ORS 830.325. This statute is far more general than the better known ones governing DUI. A boater violates it by simply operating the boat “under the influence of an intoxicating liquor, cannabis, an inhalant or controlled substance.” The law does not set a legal threshold for “influence”. Related sections explicitly forbid reckless boating (ORS 830.315) and, perhaps significantly, extend liability for reckless activity to the boat’s owner (ORS 830.330).

I first used this space to talk about the importance of life jackets and water safety back in 2016. That’s when a charity I actively support – the Aaron Peters Water Safety fund – set up a free life jacket kiosk in Gresham’s Oxbow Park, near the Sandy River. The fund is named for a 13-year-old boy who drowned in the Sandy River in 2015. It seeks to prevent similar tragedies by making life vests easily available for free to anyone wanting or needing to borrow one.

Sadly, The Oregonian, this week, brings word of another tragedy on the river. The newspaper reports that “the body of a 15-year-old boy who disappeared while wading… in the Sandy River at Oxbow Regional Park was recovered” on Monday. The paper quotes a spokesman for the Gresham fire department who “said the teen was wading in about knee-deep water when he went under at a drop-off in the river.”

This tragedy is a reminder on several levels of just how easily and how quickly something can go wrong around the water. The fact that the victim was not a small child but, rather a teenager, and that the fatal accident began in water that was only knee-deep are troubling reminders that even situations that seem simple and safe can quickly turn deadly. It is especially tragic that the accident took place close to an Aaron Peters Fund safety kiosk. As the TV station KGW noted in a report (see link below) the kiosk is still in place and is being properly maintained and stocked.

It is getting warmer, which is always a good thing, but the spring also brings dangers – sometimes dangers that may not seem immediately obvious.

I’d like to focus today on water safety, a topic that regular readers will know I have addressed in the past. As a recent article in The Oregonian outlines the temptation to cool off in Oregon and Washington’s rivers at this time of year needs to be accompanied by some simple but important safety precautions.

“Entering cold water can cause swimmers to gasp, inhale water and then go under,” the paper notes. “Currents can keep swimmers from reaching safety.” The key thing to remember is that even on a hot day the water can be very cold. This is something most of us intuitively understand when it comes to the ocean, but which can be easy to forget where rivers are concerned. It is especially important since rivers, with their fast-flowing currents and other obstacles such as rocks and trees, are often even more dangerous than swimming at the beach.

According to a recent Oregonian article there have been three instances of water-related fatalities in Oregon in just the last few weeks. With the long holiday weekend upon us, that makes this an especially important moment to remind everyone of essential safety precautions, especially when it comes to preventing injuries to children.

In an article this week the newspaper noted that “authorities suspended their search… for a missing swimmer who’s presumed drowned at Three Pools, a popular swimming hole in Marion County. A man who jumped into the North Umpqua River in Douglas County is also presumed drowned. And a Portland man is presumed drowned after he jumped into the Clackamas River.” It goes on to note that 21 “people drowned in public, natural waterbodies in Oregon and southwest Washington last summer.”

Memorial Day weekend will bring even more people to the water, and potentially expose them to a wide variety of dangers, but the good news is that many of these can be minimized through a few basic, common sense precautions. Among the easiest – and most important – is ensuring that everyone in a boat, canoe or kayak is wearing a life jacket. Nearly a year ago I used this space to publicize the Aaron Peters Water Safety Fund, a non-profit dedicated to keeping everyone, but especially kids, safe when they are on the water. The fund, as its website explains, “is designed to help aid in building kiosks for life jackets” with the goal of preventing drownings in high-risk areas. Life jackets can be borrowed from APWSF kiosks for free. Last summer the fund exceeded its initial goals by setting up kiosks in eight locations around the state in just a few months. The link below offers both a complete list of the current kiosks and more information on the fund and it’s important work.

As many of us prepare to head out of town for the long holiday weekend, the Oregon Marine Board is doing its best to issue essential reminders about the importance of boating safety during what The Oregonian describes as “one of the top three boating weekends of the year.”

As the Marine Board notes, according to The Oregonian, many of its suggestions might easily be characterized s simple common sense. Yet when one considers that “so far this year, 12 people have lost their lives in recreational boating incidents, half of which involve drugs and alcohol” it can be argued that seemingly obvious reminders remain very important. Citing the Marine Board the article notes that Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants (BUII) is a crime in Oregon and that “violators have been fined up to $7500, can lose boating privileges for up to three years and even serve jail time.”

Many of the other suggestions offered in the article are equally crucial, and too often ignored: know as much as you can about the lake, river or stream where you plan to have fun. “Water levels in the state are very low,” the Marine Board notes, and that means vacationers this long weekend need to be especially careful and look out for rocks and other potential obstacles. It is also important to be aware of safety rules regarding things like life jackets and having a sound-making device (such as a whistle) on board at all times (the Marine Board suggests attaching it to your life jacket) and the need for “all boaters operating boats over 10 horsepower” to have a valid Boater Education Card in their possession.

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone and the summer is officially underway. That is mostly a good thing, but as The Oregonian reminded us last week, it is also a moment to give some careful thought to safety. The holiday weekend, the paper noted, is “also the start of the season for cold water drownings in the region’s alluring, but often deadly, natural waterways.”

An investigation by the paper found that since 2006 “area lakes, rivers and the Pacific Ocean were the site of 212 drownings. The large majority – 180 – were men or boys; the remaining 15 percent, a total of 32, were women or girls.” The paper goes on to offer examples of incidents that started as routine outings but quickly turned into tragedies. It continues: “This kind of hazard abounds in natural waterways. One moment you’re in water up to your thighs, the next step takes you to water 10 feet deep.”

The solutions are very simple: public awareness and easier access to safety equipment. The Oregonian notes several organizations and initiatives that are working “to reduce the number of drownings through education and enforcement.” In particular, it quotes first responders reminding people of the importance of life jackets. The article quotes a sheriff’s office official in Clark County saying that “in more than 90 percent of the drownings he’s responded to, a life jacket would have saved the person.” Among the safety initiatives already underway in some parts of the state and expected to continue this season are efforts to make life jackets – usually ones that can be borrowed for free – more easily and widely available at potential trouble sites.

A Savage Rapids boat accident that left one person dead and three injured highlights the necessity of talking to an experienced Oregon personal injury attorney when pleasure excursions go wrong and result in an Oregon boat accident.

Jeff Bradley, 39, a member of a boat racing team, died last Friday in an Oregon jet boat accident when his boat flipped over as he was guiding his 12-year old son and two other passengers through Savage Rapids on the Rogue River in southern Oregon. All three passengers were thrown clear of the Savage Rapids jet boat accident, but Bradley was pinned underneath the boat and dragged 300 yards down the river. The accident occurred near the site of the Savage Rapids Dam, which workers recently breached as part of the process of removing it from the river.

Whenever tragic accidents like this happen it is best to consult immediately with an Oregon boat accident lawyer. Legal consul can be essential both to exercise your responsibilities for legal reporting and to protect your rights if someone else may be even partially at fault for the accident. This is particularly the case if you believe the accident may have resulted in an Oregon wrongful death.

In Multnomah County Circuit Court, the family of a woman who died after the kayak she was riding in on the Rogue River capsized last summer is suing Echo River Trips for her Oregon wrongful death. Cynthia Lee Von Tungeln, was 52.

According to the wrongful death complaint, Von Tungeln was kayaking with a large guided party from Grave Creek to Foster Bar on June 27, 2008 when the inflatable raft that she and another woman were in capsized as they tried to get past Picket Fence, which is a series of rocks. The family’s lawsuit contends that they became trapped in the “unusually high flow” and while Von Tungeln was able to push the other woman out of the area where the water swirled against the rocks, the 52-year-old woman stayed trapped under the water. Von Tungeln drowned and her body couldn’t be recovered until it finally washed free several days after her death.

Von Tungeln’s parents and two adult daughters are seeking at least $4 million for her wrongful death: $1.5 million for lost wages, savings, and services, $2 million for loss of companionship, $500,000 for Von Tungeln’s anguish when she was thrown from the kayak and got caught under the water, and memorial and burial costs.

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