Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
Issue link: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/665311
62 Proceedings Spring 2016 www.uscg.mil/proceedings PWC Manufacturing Safety Developments Some personal watercraft manufacturers have developed additional features to help protect riders. Off-throttle steering (OTS) allows PWC operators greater maneuverability when of throttle or of power. Prior to the introduction of OTS, operators would often lose the ability to steer the PWC without the throttle engaged. Braking systems allow the operator to bring the PWC to a controlled stop on demand. Prior to the introduction of braking abilities, an operator would have to disengage the throttle and coast to a stop. Both of these developments have undoubtedly prevented collisions and allisions. The PWC operators were transiting to the designated "free play" area. Once the vessels cleared the marina's no-wake zone, the tour guide checked with them to see if they were ready to increase speed and proceed by following him to the designated area. Both PWCs increased speed; however, the rental operator released the throttle shortly after getting the vessel up on plane. The tour guide circled back to assess whether the operator was in control of the vessel and to confrm once again that they were ready to continue. After receiving this confrma- tion, the tour guide accelerated and proceeded southeast on the causeway channel across the intersection of the Bird Island Shortcut Channel. At the same time, a tour vessel approached the intersection via the shortcut channel from the south. The rental operator followed the tour guide down the cause- way channel, but his own vessel's course made a slight arching turn to starboard in the direction of the tour boat. Observing the irregular behavior of the rental operator's personal watercraft, the tour boat's master declutched the vessel's engines, but momentum continued to carry the tour boat forward. The operator of the rented personal watercraft seemed to identify the threat of collision. Video evidence reveals that he made a series of throttle adjustments over a period of 1.9 seconds, as indicated by the intensity level of the water propulsion discharge. He applied throttle, lessened or released throttle, and then applied throttle just a few sec- onds — and a few feet — prior to impact. At the point of extremis and with signifcant throttle, the PWC operator made a hard turn to starboard and collided into the center tunnel of the catamaran hull of the tour boat. Both riders' bodies impacted the deck and port hull of the tour boat, ejecting them from the personal watercraft. Their bodies surfaced off the stern of the tour boat, unre- sponsive. The PWC tour guide recovered both victims and transferred them to the tour boat, where some of the vessel's passengers and crew, including a fre rescue frst responder, began CPR. The victims were ultimately transported back to the shore, where they were pronounced dead. Post-casualty assessment and witness testimony indicate that the personal watercraft involved in the incident was in sound mechanical condition prior to the collision, and that mechanical failure did not appear to be a causal factor. Lessons Learned Story 1: A Day on the River The woman aboard the personal watercraft had no boating safety training and likely no knowledge of the "rules of the road." She most likely made the decision to overtake the tow to reach the fat, calm water in front of the tow. However, the speed of both vessels as well as the bow wake from the head of all tows present elements that all vessel operators must consider before overtaking a tow and tow vessel. Moreover, the mate/pilot aboard the uninspected towing vessel was fatigued the day of the incident. His employer had transferred the mate from one vessel to another, which resulted in fragmented sleep the morning of the collision. The pilot only slept for approximately three hours the pre- vious night, versus the fve and a half hours he had grown accustomed to the three days before that. He'd also had a Damage to the personal watercraft (story 2). U.S. Coast Guard photo.