Special Report: Boating
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The coast guard keeps track of boating accidents. Massachusetts authorities reported 225 accidents to the coast guard between 2003 and 2007, 45 people died in those mishaps.
7news analyzed the data from a 5-year period - to find the body of water where the most accidents occur. If you said someplace on Cape Cod - you'd be wrong. It's Boston Harbor - dozens of incidents over the years. The Coast Guard and state environmental police are on alert, and watching for trouble.
A young boy was among two people who drowned in the harbor this summer. The boy was not wearing a life jacket. Officials say wearing a PFD or personal flotation device, increases your chances of surviving a traumatic accident significantly.
Just this month, a 21-year-old man died on Nantucket while fishing with friends in an 8 foot skiff. He fell overboard and could not swim. Officials shake their heads.
"In that case a life jacket saves lives," said George Agganis of the Massachusetts Environmental Police.
For many weekend warriors, there's nothing like popping a cold beer, and gunning the boat over the water.
But the Coast Guard says in 2007, the number one contributing factor to recreational boating deaths was alcohol.
It's actually legal to drink and drive a boat. But it's illegal to drive drunk - and getting caught carries the same consequences as drunk driving on dry land. For instance, a conviction for drunk driving in a boat can mean you will lose your license to drive a car.
Environmental Police caught one guy who found that out the hard way on the 4th of July. Sergeant Robert Akin of the environmental police says, "He refused the breath test and because it was his second offense, he lost his right to operate his motor vehicle for four years in the Commonwealth."
Where are most boating accidents reported in New England? It's Lake Winnipesauke, in New Hampshire, a favorite summer spot for people from Massachusetts. Statistics show more than 400 accidents were reported to the Coast Guard over the past 12 years.
Officials with the New Hampshire marine patrol say most accidents on Winnipesauke are due to injuries people suffer while being towed on water skis or inner tubes.
Some of the pricey high powered boats on the lake can actually go 100 miles an hour, frightening some longtime residents.
Bill Frago was fishing in a canoe one day when he was nearly swamped and fell overboard.
"Two high speed boats were racing each other - and passed within 50 feet of either side of me," said Frago.
New Hampshire's governor signed a law that sets a 45 mile an hour speed limit on Winnipesauke during the day and 25 at night. That law kicks in this coming January and stays in effect for two years.
It's become quite a controversy on the lake.
"It's kind of stupid - if I have a fast boat, I want to go fast," said one young man.
"We have a lot of accidents at night - 25 is plenty fast enough," said another
Ironicallym a woman who lobbied against the speed limit was involved in a fatal accident one night in June.
The marine patrol says that woman rammed Diamond Island with her 37-foot boat at night. One of her passengers was killed.
She has not been charged, though a criminal investigation continues.
Lieutenant Tim Dunleavey of the marine patrol says he does not believe the new speed limit will drastically cut down on the number of reported accidents on Winnipesauke. He says many involve submerged rocks which are hard to see no matter how fast a boat is traveling.
"To see our numbers change drastically? I don't think you will," said Dunleavey.
The best advice to prevent accidents no matter where you drive a boat is to wear a life vest. Don't drink and drive - and be alert for hazards.
Jonathan Hall, 7NEWS.
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