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OPP: nearly half of 2021 marine fatalities involve paddlers without life jackets

Photo by Filip Mroz

Ahead of Safe Boating Awareness Week, May 21 to 27, 2022, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have released statistics on marine deaths over the past few years.

Ten canoes, a kayak, a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and a rowboat were among the marine vessels for which a tragic scenario unfolded for 13 of the 27 people who died on OPP patrolled waterways in 2021, according to a release from the OPP.

Similarly, 12 canoes, three kayaks, a SUP and a rowboat were involved in 17 marine deaths in 2020 – a year that saw a record 32 boaters/paddlers lose their lives.

“Whether paddling a slow-moving vessel or traveling in a motorized boat, boating enthusiasts should be aware of some telling facts around marine fatalities over the past two boating seasons (2020/2021),” OPP said in the release which shared the following statistics:

  • Half (30) of the 59 people killed were paddling human-powered vessels, with the balance of those who died traveling in motorized boats.  
  • The majority (52) of the 59 fatalities involved a vessel that either capsized, or the person(s) who died fell overboard. 
  • Only four of the 59 deceased were wearing a life jacket at the time of the incident. Alcohol and/or drugs were a factor in at least 12 of the deaths.
  • Almost 40 per cent of those who died on OPP-patrolled waterways in 2021/2022 were not the operator of the vessel. They were either passengers, people in the water or being towed behind a boat.

With weather, hazardous waterways and operator inexperience among other contributing factors in boating fatalities, the number one take away from the OPP’s data is that no one is completely safe on the water if they are not wearing a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD), according to the release. The OPP strongly encourage all boaters to stop tossing this proven life-saving device aside and to wear it.    

According to the release, during Safe Boating Awareness Week and throughout the boating season, OPP Marine Officers will be out on the water promoting marine safety and enforcing boating laws.

“For a safe and enjoyable boating season, always be well-prepared,” OPP said. “Ensure your vessel is properly functioning and equipped and check the weather to determine if it’s safe to go out. Always boat sober and drug-free. Familiarize yourself with Canada’s Safe Boating Guide and share your knowledge with new, inexperienced boaters/paddlers.

“Remember that the only life jacket/PFD that can save you is the one you are wearing.”

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