CREATED Aug. 14, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Rescue crews have been busy in the past few weeks responding to several boating emergencies.
Most recently, Wednesday morning when a Port Charlotte man was seriously injured after a boat fire in the 22000 block of Oneida Avenue.
It's a scene that's played out in Southwest Florida several times just in the past few weeks.
Every one of these cases dealt with chemicals and experts say could have been prevented by using boating safety measures.
"75% of boating accidents are human error," said Heather Fabrizzi with Sea Tow.
Those numbers don't show signs of slowing.
Just a few weeks ago there two different boating emergencies in Fort Myers.
Two men were taken to the hospital at the end of July with possible burns after a boat explosion in a canal behind a home on Baker Court.
Four days later on August 1st, two girls were burned at The Landings Marina. One of the girls had second-degree burns one with second degree burns on her arm and back.
According to officials, both accidents happened because gas fumes ignited.
Now, a Port Charlotte man sits fighting for his life in a Tampa hospital with burns the to face, hands and arms. His boat is charred. Fire officials say chemicals are also to blame on this case.
"Is it a little concerning knowing how many people go out there unprepared?" reporter Kelli Stegeman asked Mitchell Miller with the U.S. Coast Guard. "It is," Miller replied.
The U.S. Coast Guard hopes to educate boaters and prevent accidents they say are largely preventable.
"As far as chemicals, obviously they want to be in a well ventilated area," Miller said. "Some boats are fixed with a blower system. Those should be used properly, they should be inspected by not only yourself but maybe an annual or semi-annual basis."
"Use your nose," Fabrizzi said when it comes to fumes. As soon as you smell them, it's time to jump into action.
"Open your engine compartment, open your hatches," she said. "Look down in your bilge, look through all the the little compartments that can possibly have a vapor lock of gas and can cause an explosion."
"If you are taking ownership, possesion of being the captain of that boat, then you should care about the crew that is going out with you," said Miller.
He also offered these tips:
- Perform a boat check before you leave the dock.
- Know where your safety equipment is including any fire extinguishers.
- Share a float plan with someone back home who knows when and where you are going and who is going along.
For new boaters or those wanting a refresher course, the Coast Guard Auxillary offers boating safety classes. We've put a link for more information on the 'Big Red 4' section of our website.