Recently Monroe County Fire Rescue personnel transported a critical patient to Ryder Trauma Center via Trauma Star air ambulance after a life-threatening personal watercraft accident near mile marker 88. Many factors combined to save the patient’s life, including the firefighters and paramedics that were first on scene; the medical skills and expertise of our Trauma Star flight personnel; the skills and airmanship of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office pilot; and ultimately the doctors and medical staff at Ryder Trauma Center. In a heartfelt letter of appreciation to MCFR headquarters, the patient’s husband was thankful to everyone involved and noted that many people came together to get his wife to shore in time. The quick response and access to a highly-trained medical team and the Trauma Star air ambulance was paramount in this life saving effort.
PWC accidents are not uncommon in the Florida Keys, as many residents and visitors enjoy our beautiful waters on many different types of vessels. This recent accident provides an opportunity to remind everyone of the potential dangers of PWCs and also provide some useful information to help you and your loved ones remain safe while enjoying water related activities. Although statistics indicate that PWCs are not involved in a significantly-greater percentage of accidents than other watercraft, the accidents involving jet-skis are more likely to be serious or fatal. Remember these important tips: *Always wear a fitted, Coast Guard-approved lifejacket.* Make sure that someone knows you are out on the water, and what time to expect you back. Carry some sort of personal identification including emergency contact information.*
Make use of whatever engine-stop accessory is provided by the jet-ski manufacturer. For instance, many PWCs come with a lanyard that is placed around the wrist, which that will automatically shut off the engine if the driver falls. *Constantly be on the lookout for other boats, skiers, divers, and swimmers. It can be difficult, especially in choppy water, to see swimmers and fallen skiers, so you must be constantly vigilant and keep a wide distance from boats and the shoreline. *Do not use waves and the wakes made by boats as ramps. Many novice PWC riders have been injured when they lost control of their craft after trying to jump off of waves.* Never operate a PWC if you have had any alcohol or other drugs. *Carry a whistle to alert other persons or boaters that you need assistance.* Do not ride a PWC unless you have reached the legal age to do so according to the relevant jurisdiction. The personal watercraft industry recommends that jet-ski riders be at least 16 years old.
James Callahan is the chief of the Monroe County Fire-Rescue Department.