Coast Guard says 2011 stats emphasize importance of PFDs

The 1st Coast Guard District recorded 51 recreational boating and paddling fatalities in New England waters in 2011. Out of the 51 deaths last year, 44 of the boaters were not wearing life jackets.

“Life jackets save lives,” said Walt Taylor, recreational boating safety specialist, 1st Coast Guard District.

Capsizing (14 deaths) or falling overboard (29 deaths) while not wearing a PFD (personal floatation device) were the main factors resulting in fatalities.

Boating fatalities were divided between 29 deaths on motorized vessels and 22 deaths on non-motorized vessels, the Coast Guard said. Massachusetts accounted for 11 deaths.

Due to the tremendous growth in kayaking over the past decade, and the long-standing interest in canoeing, northeastern paddle-sport fatalities are typically double the national average. Of the 51 deaths, 19 of the victims were in paddle craft.

“It’s extremely important to get these statistics out,” Lt. Joe Klinker, 1st Coast Guard District public affairs officer, said. “But it’s even more important for all of us to realize that these aren’t just numbers. They were friends, parents, spouses, sons, and daughters. They were neighbors in a very close maritime community.”

While the Coast Guard continues to deliver the message of safe boating, Klinker said, this year the Coast Guard is making a special plea to the friends and families of all boaters: Hold your loved ones accountable and make sure they take the right steps to come home safely.