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In our view / Jet ski safety

Prevent tragedy on water

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If it can happen to them, it can happen to you.
Fifty-year-old NASA astronaut Alan Poindexter was captain of space shuttle Discovery's next-to-last mission. He died July 1 following a jet ski collision with his son.
Blair Holliday, 19, turned heads last year as a 6-foot-3-inch wide receiver for Duke University. A July 4 jet ski collision with a teammate put him in critical condition.
Kyle Glover, 11, is the stepson of pop star Usher. He was hit by a jet ski on July 6 while he floated on an inner tube. He is now brain-dead.
The string of high-profile accidents serves as a reminder that the threat of tragedy on the water is constant. It touches the seemingly invincible -- astronauts, athletes, children of privilege -- and it can touch you.
As the days grow warmer, Snohomish County waterways will continue to fill with the type of high-speed, high-risk watercraft that caused those recent accidents. Riders need to take caution in the coming months.
We do not want to sound alarmist. Jet ski accidents are uncommon, according to USA Today. Last year, about 1.29 million of the watercraft were registered in the United States, and 808 deaths or injuries occurred.
But often, these types of accidents are preventable.
In Washington, jet skis can be used by anyone 14 years of age or older. Generally, the driver also needs a boater safety card, available from the state, given after successful completion of a boater safety course.
Thankfully, preventing accidents is almost as easy as using a jet ski.
First, remember to cinch that life jacket tight. In Washington, the frigid water can claim a life as easily as a head injury.
Secondly, play by the rules. If there's a wake restriction in place on the water, follow it. Small vehicles aren't exempt. If the jet ski has a kill cord -- a little lanyard that will cut off the engine if you fall, so the watercraft doesn't keep going -- then wear it.
Thirdly, stay alert. Don't stop looking around for other drivers, boats, people and debris in the water. Have fun, sure, but don't relax. Keep your head on a spring.
Also, don't drink and drive. Some forget this rule during day-long barbecues. Stop and ask yourself: Would you get behind the wheel of your car when you were in-between beers? No. So why, exactly, are you driving a jet ski?
Finally, when you go out, remember, it's not only your life on the line. In two of the high-profile accidents, a relative or family friend allegedly hit the victim.
No one wants to walk away from that kind of accident.
Story tags » Accidents (general)BoatingBodies of WaterLakes

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