Lessons from the Osoyoos Lake boating tragedy

two-people-in-a-boat-with-life-jackets-on Photo courtesy of Stearns

On June 8th, on an open lake in the Okanagan during a clear day, two boats collided with fatal results. The crash was captured on a security video and it was evident that no other boats were nearby. How could this have happened?

Boating is a very safe activity in Canada and few collisions or mishaps occur, but there are important lessons to be learned from this tragedy on Osoyoos Lake where two men died and three others were injured – two of them critically.

Accidents can happen, even in broad daylight. The investigation of the Osoyoos crash is in progress, but the cause of the crash is not known , so we won’t speculate on that.

The important lesson is that just as you would buckle up when you start your car, you should put on a lifejacket or PFD (personal floatation device) as you get into your boat. Many adults leave their lifejacket stowed away, thinking that if they have a problem, they can grab it and put it on. Try that some time…jump into the water and then try to put on a lifejacket. It’s almost impossible.

On Osoyoos Lake, two men were in a red outboard performance boat, the other three were in an aluminum fishing boat. According to witnesses, on impact, the red boat flew up into the air, then entered the water nose first and sank immediately. It did not re-surface.

The aluminum fishing boat bobbed up just long enough for nearby residents to race out and rescue the three men onboard. Then it also sank. Both boats had to be located by divers and raised the next day. Global TV was on the scene and interviewed an eye-witness. (

The Canadian Safe Boating Council ( has five rules of boating safety:

First, wear your lifejacket. You are required to have one, but it won’t help if you are not wearing it.

Second, boat sober. We are not saying alcohol was involved on Lake Osoyoos but that could partly explain the tragedy.

Third, take a boating course. You need a Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card to drive a boat.

Fourth, prepare your vessel. That means having sufficent fuel, all required safety equipment and to be aware of the weather.

Fifth point, be cold water safe. A sudden plunge into cold water can cause a person to gasp and inhale water, resulting in drowning.

Transport Canada publishes the Safe Boating Guide online and it has almost all you need to know.

The one thing it can’t give you is common sense. Always keep a lookout all around you, not just ahead. Perhaps the red boat suddenly lost its steering connection at high speed. It may have veered abruptly. The driver could have been tossed out of his seat and lost control. Also, most boats now have a safety engine kill switch lanyard. One tug and the engine dies, slowing most boats quite quickly. Always use it.

The aluminum boat driver (and passengers too) seem not to have seen the other boat approaching. Perhaps they could have avoided the crash if they had been watching all around themselves.

These are simple and effective steps that every boater can, and should take to keep themselves and their passengers safe this summer.



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