Boating Fatality Shows Dangers of High Winds, Swimming From Boats

Boating-Fatality-RecoveryAfter two fatal boat accidents on Lake Mead, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) reminds boaters of the importance of wearing life jackets if swimming from a boat. Both accidents, and indeed many accidents each summer, are the result of boaters voluntarily leaving the boat and being unable to get back on the boat.

A 35-year-old man was killed June 20 when he left his boat on the Arizona side of Lake Mead. His body is yet to be recovered. The second accident occurred in the Virgin Basin of Lake Mead June 23 when a 30-year-old Las Vegas man drowned after jumping off a boat to swim. Even though both accidents happened in Southern Nevada, game wardens have seen this type of accident in every body of water statewide over the years.

"This is one of the most common fatalities seen at the Lake Mead, among other waterways in the state," said Mike Maynard, game warden lieutenant with NDOW. "A person leaves a boat voluntarily to go swimming and then drowns trying to return to the boat. Muscle exhaustion can occur very quickly, especially when a person is drinking and trying to swim."

Heavy afternoon winds are common in Nevada, yet many boaters believe they can jump off a boat and have little to no problem swimming back to it. Game wardens suspect alcohol was also a factor in the second accident at Lake Mead. Alcohol, swimming and high winds are deadly to would-be swimmers.

Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion, "stressors" common to the boating environment, intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs, and some prescription medications, according to Maynard. Officers this weekend will be conducting heightened patrols in Nevada for operating under the influence (OUI) as part of a nationwide effort to reduce OUI fatalities. The weekend program is called Operation Dry Water, and boaters can learn more at www.operationdrywater.org.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) protects, restores and manages fish and wildlife, and promotes fishing, hunting, and boating safety. NDOW’s wildlife and habitat conservation efforts are primarily funded by sportsmen’s license and conservation fees and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. Support wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a hunting, fishing, or combination license. Find us on Facebook, Twitter or visit us at www.ndow.org.

Photo Caption: Officers from the Nevada Department of Wildlife, National Park Service and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, retrieve the body of a 30-year-old Las Vegas man who drowned after jumping off a boat to swim in Lake Mead.