Water Crafts and Amputations

Water sports are becoming more popular around the world. People are spending more time racing boats, water skiing, scuba diving and skin diving. Injuries because of boat propellers are also becoming more frequent. One study looked at the ten year period from 1963-1973 and studied nine cases of injury by boat propeller. Some resulted in an amputation as a result of the propeller itself. Others needed surgical amputation due to mangled extremities.

Injuries on boats are not simply a national occurrence. The below examples are listed not for shock value but to illustrate the need to use caution when on or near boats. These were recent news items from 2012 and 2013 illustrating the mechanism of injury due to water sports and/or while on a watercraft.

At times injuries have occurred while transporting people on water ferries. Many remember the water taxi in Bangladesh that capsized resulting in mass evacuation from the boat. While many were able to swim to the shore, the loss of life due to drowning was very high in this tragic event that could have been prevented.

Other times injuries occur on a boat due to the boat striking an object. A man and his child were injured in Australia when their boat hit a dredge pipe, ejecting the man and child. The man was struck by the boat propeller but was rescued by someone who was on-board. The baby was recovered as well. While rescue attempts of both lives was successful, the father was not left unscathed. He struck the propeller of the boat after ejection and suffered a severe left leg injury.

Severe injury has also been noted during snorkeling excursions. An American student in Dominica was killed after being hit by the boat’s propeller. The student was on a snorkeling excursion when she ran into a dive boat that was reversing. The student was struck and killed.

Even those with training in safety have been injured or died while on a boat. In December 2012, a federal agent working on a Coast Guard boat was killed after being sent on a drug mission near Santa Cruz Island. When the U.S. Coast Guard approached the suspects on a small outboard boat, one of the suspects rammed the coast guard boat with their own water craft causing the federal agent to be ejected. He was struck in the head by one of the propellers and was pronounced dead by paramedics shortly thereafter.

In Hartford, Illinois, a worker was repairing a tugboat. He attempted to remove a four ton propeller from the boat he was repairing when suddenly he was struck by the propeller. This caused him to be knocked into river water. While other nearby were able to retrieve the worker from the water he was unable to be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at the scene despite being in the water only 30 seconds. The blunt force trauma from the propeller to his pelvis coupled with major blood loss contributed to his death.

A young Korean tourist was snorkeling with five friends. While snorkeling, another boat passed through the vicinity of the snorkelers. One of the unsuspecting tourists received a blow to the head by the propeller of the passing boat causing him to need an emergency transport to a nearby hospital. Although his injuries were severe, he did survive.

In another case, a couple was salmon fishing near Sacramento in a fishing boat. A second boat came by and, in the wake, the female was ejected from the boat. She was struck by the propeller of the boat. They went to shore and got help. She was airlifted out of the area. The report indicates she sustained cuts from the propeller to her torso. Additionally she suffered fractured ribs and a punctured lung.

Overall, advances in medical care and emergency transport have resulted in reduced fatalities due to water crafts on a national level. Nonetheless, the need to exercise care remains great.

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