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Archive for Sunday, February 15, 2004

Safety on water routinely ignored

February 15, 2004

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A weary sadness is audible in water patrolman Paul Kennedy's voice when he tells the story of Missouri's most recent hunting-related boating fatality.

Sadness because the victim was only 14 years old.

Seth R. Wykoff of Greenwood went duck hunting on Montrose Lake in Henry County before sunrise Dec. 13. His adult companions did not bring any life jackets, and Wykoff had not told them that he could not swim.

Their 15-foot johnboat was overloaded with four hunters, a retriever, shotguns and other gear. When the boat took on water and sank, the hunters' heavy clothing and waders full of water made it difficult to swim, let alone rescue Wykoff.

Rescue workers recovered the boy's body, but resuscitation efforts failed to revive him.

"It's no different than what is occurring all over the nation," Kennedy said. "Time and again, hunters and anglers fail to take simple precautions that could save their lives."

Of the 321 boating accidents recorded by the Missouri Water Patrol last year, 16 resulted in deaths. Half of those deaths occurred when people fell out of boats. Three involved collisions with fixed objects, and another three resulted from swamping or capsizing.

Nine out of 10 fatal boating accidents involve people who were not wearing life jackets. Most involve men age 30 to 50. In most cases, the victims are riding in flat-bottomed or semi-V hulled boats 16 feet or smaller.

The Water Patrol does not track how many people die in boating accidents while hunting or fishing. However, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, one out of every three people who die on the water nationwide is a hunter or angler.

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