Boating accidents rise

STEPHEN PULLINGER The number of drowning “near misses” on the Broads nearly doubled last year, while the total number of boaters needing hospital treatment after accidents more than tripled.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

The number of drowning “near misses” on the Broads nearly doubled last year, while the total number of boaters needing hospital treatment after accidents more than tripled.

But a report to Friday's meeting of the Broads Authority concludes that despite 35 incidents during 2006 - the most serious being two boat-related drownings - the Broads remains a safe place to visit.

Three onboard fires or explosions are highlighted, but it is thought only one would have been prevented by the introduction in April of the boat safety scheme requiring MoT-style tests on all larger motor craft.

Other incidents range from a man suffering a deep cut fending off another boat with his foot and getting it trapped, to a number of rescues following the capsize of dinghies.

Head of waterways strategy and safety Steve Birtles said: “When viewed over several years, the statistics demonstrate a fairly static position and people should be reassured that the Broads continues to be a safe place to visit.

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“One reason for the rise in incidents is that they are being more rigorously reported. Last year, we introduced incident reporting forms which boaters fill in and send back to us.

“Previously, we often only got to hear about incidents if people rang river patrol after getting into difficulty.”

Mr Birtles said incidents where people ended up in the water were consistently logged as drowning “near misses” even if they had a life jacket on and a safety boat was available.

However, he stressed the Broads Authority remained vigilant about safety and was striving for improvements through a number of initiatives.

He said: “We are in the process of completing our Port Marine Safety Code hazard review, which provides a league table of hazards on the Broads.

“As a result of a drowning caused by a dinghy capsizing, the hazard of lone boating is receiving a raised classification.”

Mr Birtles said such hazards would be drawn to the attention of boaters by contacting clubs and disseminating leaflets.

He said they were close to completing a new safety DVD, particularly aimed at the hire boat market, which focused on basic boat-handling skills but had a strong safety message throughout.

About 600 private motor cruisers of the size requiring new MoT-style tests to operate on the Broads had still

failed to undertake them a month after the new law was implemented on April 1.

Mr Birtles said reminder letters had been sent out and people using craft without the necessary certificate would face prosecution.

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