Four killed in Memorial Day weekend boating accidents

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Despite Coast Guard efforts to advocate safe boating during the Memorial Day weekend, there were fatalities and injuries on the water during the unofficial start of boating season.

An accident in North Carolina killed a pregnant mother and her 3-year-old son when a pontoon they were riding in was hit by a speedboat on High Rock Lake, the local Fox affiliate reported. Another adult, reportedly the brother of the woman killed, was taken to a hospital with critical head injuries, and the family dog was also missing Tuesday. No one on board was wearing a life jacket despite a state law requiring passengers under the age of 13 to wear them. Alcohol was not a factor, but authorities told the station that speed might have played a role.

In Edgewater, Md., six children between the ages of 9 and 13 and two adults were hospitalized with burns and other injuries Monday after an explosion occurred on their 32-foot Wellcraft, authorities told the Washington Post. All had been released Tuesday except for a 9-year-old boy who was in stable condition, according to an email from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Fire Department division chief Keith Swindle told WTOP that the engine stalled after the boat was refueled. When someone tried to restart the engine, an explosion and flash fire occurred.

Sgt. Brian Albert told the Post that only one of the boat’s twin engines seemed to be functioning when the group left the dock. He said the boat made it about 100 feet into the South River before the explosion. Investigators were exploring what sparked the blast, but Albert said it was possible that the boat’s blower system, designed to expel fumes from the engine compartment, had malfunctioned or that there was some sort of problem during the refueling.

A crash Sunday night in St. Johns County, Fla., killed two men and left a woman seriously injured, The Florida Times-Union reported. Authorities were investigating the cause of the accident, but told the paper that no one on board was wearing a life jacket.

Coast Guard crews said they, along with federal, state and local partner agencies, responded to several disabled vessels during the Memorial Day weekend.

In many cases, communications would have been optimal had boaters used a VHF-FM marine radio. Although cellphones are a good backup, they can be unreliable because of gaps in coverage area and the potential for a dead battery. Crews also reported several instances of drunken boating and safety violations aboard boats.

The Coast Guard urged boaters to take advantage of free safety checks and to wear life jackets because more than 90 percent of boaters who drown weren’t wearing them.

For boating safety information, check out these online resources:

Vessel safety checks

Coast Guard boating safety classes

National Safe Boating Council

— Compiled by Reagan Haynes

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