INDIAN RIVER INLET – Tragedy was averted Sunday as nine people – including six small children and an infant – were pulled to safety from the Indian River Inlet when their open bow boat was swamped by heavy waves and quickly sank.
All nine people aboard were wearing life jackets, enabling their successful rescue by passing boaters with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard and DNREC Fish & Wildlife Enforcement, said Sgt. Gregory Rhodes, DNREC boating safety officer.
“There’s no doubt that if the entire party hadn’t been wearing their PFDs at the time of the accident, it could have been a tragic outcome,” said Sgt. Rhodes. “The swamping from the waves tossed the young people all over the boat, and then it sank quickly. Getting into life jackets amidst such chaos would have been very difficult if not impossible. Wearing them from the minute you board a boat – that’s how boaters outfit themselves when they want to leave nothing to chance.”
The 21-foot boat was buffeted by waves as soon as it entered the inlet, and shortly thereafter started to sink as its bilge pump was incapable of expelling the water taken on. Other boaters in the inlet who saw the children and two adults in the water motored to the scene and immediately began pulling them from the water.
One child was treated for a slight cut on his foot from the propeller of a rescuer boat as he was hauled aboard it; he was taken to Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, treated and released.
In Delaware, life jackets also are the law with children age 12 and younger required to wear them while underway in any vessel on Delaware waters. Recreational vessels are required to carry one life jacket for each person aboard, and to keep them readily accessible. Recreational vessels 16 feet or longer are required to carry one throw-able cushion or ring buoy in addition to life jackets for all aboard.
Since 1991, when the state’s child personal floatation device law went into effect, not a single child has died as a result of drowning in a boating accident.
The boat involved in Sunday’s sinking was later salvaged and towed to a marina for removal of water to make it seaworthy again.</