Originally Published in the November 1991 issue of The Outfitter Magazine.
Recently, the NOTO office received the Verdict of a Coroner’s Jury from an inquest into the July 1990 deaths of two guests at a tourist camp near Dryden. The two men were found floating on a nearby lake four days after leaving the camp to do some fishing. Their empty boat was found ashore on a nearby island. The Coroner’s inquest could not determine how the two men became separated from their boat.
As a part of the inquest, a five-person jury listened to the evidence available about the accident and made seven recommendations to improve boater safety. These recommendations are the jury’s suggestions of what steps might be taken in the future to help prevent similar accidents from occurring. They were circulated to outdoor organizations, boating associations, outboard motor manufacturers, water safety councils and the Ministries of Tourism and Recreation and Natural Resources.
The jury’s recommendations are listed below, along with the rationale behind each. Please keep in mind that the recommendations are not legally binding and operators cannot be forced to comply with then until such time as any legislation is passed. They are simply reprinted here so that camps can be made aware of them, and if felt warranted, implement them to help prevent future accidents.
Outfitters must insist on the use of life vests in all boats (like seat belts).
Evidence presented at the hearing showed that the two guests were provided with boat cushions only, not life vests. While there are no laws requiring outfitters to supply vests or insist they be used, the jury felt (and recommended) that life vests must be worn by all boaters. Any boater who chose not to wear one would be subject to a penalty.
Locale of tourist lodge guests should be logged by the owner (at base – by checking their boats nightly; at outposts-by short-wave radio).
This recommendation was made because the two gentlemen were not recognized as missing, or searched for, until four days after they originally left camp. Evidence showed that no laws are in place that require lodges to keep track of their guests, and that the manner in which tracking is done varies among individual camps. In this particular case, boats were checked by the camp on a weekly basis (when guests arrived at the end of their stay).
The jury recommended that checks be made by camp owners at least daily so that if a party or boat was unable to be accounted for, a search could be initiated right away.
If contact with the boat owner is lost, send out a search and rescue operation.
This recommendation follows from ## 2 above. While recognizing the difficulties involved in knowing the exact locations of guests at all times, the jury felt that if a boat was missing, efforts to find it must be initiated quickly.
If a boat owner's boat has a kill switch, its use must be compulsory.
Evidence at the inquest indicated that most outboard motors have such devices, one end of which attaches to the boat while the other attaches to the boat operator. The idea being that if the boat owner should leave his seat, the engine will shut down. In this particular case, one end of the switch was not attached to the boat operator.
Lodge owners should issue maps to boat owners with updated markings, depth charts and buoy markings, as soon as possible.
It was recognized at the inquest that many water bodies do not have proper charts or marker buoys. However, the jury felt that, at the very least, operators who knew of hazards and buoys should have them marked on maps and issue such maps in all cases (even if they are not requested by guests).
Lakes should be charted and buoyed as soon as possible.
While recognizing that the Canadian Hydrographic Service cannot chart every lake, the jury felt that lakes receiving heavy motorboat traffic should be charted as soon as possible. If this was done, maps could be made available to all guests as per ## 5 above.
Commercial motor-makers should do away with throttle wing nuts.
These nuts can be used to set the throttle at a constant speed. In this particular case, the wing nut had been tightened to set the throttle wide open. The jury felt such a device created a potential hazard and should be removed.
Please remember that the above recommendations are not legally binding. We have only reprinted them in an effort to help prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future.