Boating deaths in Maryland have reached their highest level in more than a decade, with 20 so far this year. But authorities say they can’t find any explanation for the increase other than nice summer weather.
“Boating is a recreational activity, and when the weather is good and conducive to boating, we’re going to find a lot more activity,” said Sgt. Art Windemuth, spokesman for the Natural Resources Police.
But Windemuth said insufficient attention to safety has also been a factor. Life jackets weren’t worn by 18 of the 20 people who died, he said, and alcohol was involved in some cases.
The deaths don’t fit a discernible pattern, he said, with some people falling overboard while drinking and others slipping into the water while boating alone. The locations range from the Gunpowder River in Baltimore County to the lower reaches of the Chesapeake Bay.
One thing the accidents share in common is that they all could have been prevented, said Chris Edmonston, an Annapolis resident who is president of the nonprofit BoatUS Foundation.
“Just a little bit more forethought and more careful planning would go a long way in keeping some of these people alive,” he said.
Since 2001, Maryland has averaged around 13 boating accident fatalities a year, according to state statistics. The low point was 2006, with eight, while the previous high was 17 deaths, in 2009.
The year’s latest boating-related death came Thursday afternoon on the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County.
William Thomas Cole, 42, of North Beach was jumping waves on a 10-foot personal watercraft south of the North Beach fishing pier when he was knocked into the water. He yelled for help but was swallowed by breaking waves and was later found unconscious, an NRP news release said. Windemuth said the incident remains under investigation.
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