A heart breaking story this week reminds us of how easy it is to make a simple mistake that changes our lives forever. Former astronaut Alan Poindexter was killed when his adult son collided with him on a personal water craft (PWC). Poindexter and one son were sitting still on one PWC when the other son “came barreling into them.”
Many people have watched people zooming around on PWCs and thought, “That looks like fun – I think I will try it.” It also looks very easy, and PWCs are available for rent with no training or instruction other than how to make it go and how to turn. However, PWCs are powerful, fast vehicles that can cause a lot of damage in a collision.
Let’s look at some of the common ways people are injured or killed while using PWCs:
A 16 year old girl on a PWC was killed in the ocean off Cyprus when she collided with a PWC operated by her boy friend.
A man was killed and his passenger injured when they were hit broadside by a PWC driven by one of the victim’s friends.
A college football player who was four days away from playing in the Orange Bowl was seriously injured when his PWC collided with another one operated by a teammate as they crossed a wave. It took four months for him to recover to the point that he was ready to play again.
An 11 year old boy was seriously injured when he was trapped between a PWC and a partially collapsed dock. A man was approaching the dock on a PWC at about 5 mph to drop off a friend’s daughter when a wave suddenly pushed the PWC into the dock. Three other people were injured.
A man operating a PWC apparently hit his head on the handlebars, was knocked unconscious and drowned.
A teenager was killed when he fell off a PWC and was struck by another PWC driven by a friend.
Didn’t See Swimmer
A woman was seriously injured after a PWC operator failed to see her and struck her in an area of a lake not reserved for swimming.
In the hands of an experienced operator, PWCs can be safely used for recreation, racing, towing surfers, or rescues. If inexperienced people who rent a PWC for the first time were content to just cruise around on it, it would also be pretty safe. However, after a few minutes the excitement of operating a PWC wears off and people start doing other more risky things like trying to splash other boaters or people on docks, or heading right at someone and then swerving at the last second.
There are PWC experts with years of experience who can safely do those kinds of things, but someone who is new to PWCs doesn’t have the training and experience to handle rough conditions or make split second decisions like trying to swerve at the last second.
We almost lost two of our children in just such an accident. Several of our adult children were out playing on PWCs. Todd headed right for Candice, intending to swerve at the last second and spray her with water. He waited too long to turn and collided with her, punching a hole in her PWC. Fortunately neither was seriously injured, but the PWC sank and they had to pay for it, so it was an expensive lesson in error prevention.
In the Smart People/Dumb Things course you will learn to recognize the Traps involved in operating a PWC, and you will be taught how to use the Tools of Error Prevention to carefully assess the risks involved. Once you have learned about the Traps and Tools™ of Error Prevention, you can access an extend version of this article in the subscription only area of our website. This article will detail which Traps to watch out for when operating a PWC, and how to best use the Tools to correctly assess those risks and set reasonable limits that will adequately mitigate the risk. Best of all, it only takes a couple of minutes to make sure you can have a fun day and then go home with no injuries or fatalities.