The state of Georgia and its many parks offer a variety of waterways and lakes for boating and other recreational activities. However, boating can be dangerous and cause serious accidents and injuries. Although most people don’t think about carbon monoxide poisoning as a boating risk, an Oklahoma mother is sounding the alarm after losing her son in a tragic accident.
Cassandra Free of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, recently spoke to TODAY about how her son Andrew died from carbon monoxide poisoning after spending the day at the back of the family boat. Back in June of this year, the family had enjoyed a day on the lake, with Andrew falling asleep on the back of the boat. When the boat prepared to pull out of the water, Andrew fell off the back into the water. Although the initial cause of death was ruled drowning, it was later revealed the boy died from extremely high levels of carbon monoxide – 72% – in his blood. His brothers were also diagnosed with acute carbon monoxide poisoning, but recovered.
What makes this particular story so unique and heartbreaking is that Andrew and his family were experienced boaters and swimmers and understood all the risks that came along with going out on the water. Andrew was not in an enclosed space with an engine, but out in the fresh air. So what happened?
In a post gone viral on Facebook, Cassandra Free explained that Andrew was sitting at the back of the boat most of the day, which was at a low speed in a low-wake zone. During that time, the exhaust from the motor was drafting into the back of the boat, slowly poisoning him. Newer boats on the market have protections in place to prevent tragedies like this from occurring. In Cassandra’s own words:
“I was always one who hates restrictions enforced by the government- inspections and registrations and mandatory recalls that affected vehicle performance. But there is a purpose. Cars and street motorcycles and airplanes have to follow these regulations. But any boat can be registered and taken onto the lake by unsuspecting boaters.”
Now, she is calling for warnings on boat docks and at marinas, as well as education about modifications to older boats that can prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
Risks of carbon monoxide and boating
Often, large boats or houseboats can have generators that draft exhaust toward the back of the boat. In some cases, this carbon monoxide can kill a person in minutes or seconds, and often these deaths are misclassified as drownings.
According to the CDC, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Nausea and vomiting
High levels of carbon monoxide are fatal, and a person who is intoxicated or sleeping can die without exhibiting any symptoms. If you or anyone is experiencing these symptoms, get to fresh air immediately and seek medical help.
Preventing CO poisoning on boats
To mitigate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, ensure you have a CO detector installed in any enclosed area on your boat and test it any time you plan to use the boat. Do not hang around or swim near the exhaust vents of a boat while the engine or generator is running. Ensure you have the exhaust system and engine inspected and maintained regularly – especially if you purchase the boat used.
The U.S. Coast Guard provides more boating and CO safety tips.
At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, our injury attorneys are committed to protecting the health and safety of children and adults throughout Georgia. If you’ve suffered injury due to the negligence of another person or company, we can help. To schedule your free case evaluation, call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.
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