A report highlighting a complete lack of respect for the water that could have turned into a tragedy.
What the reporter told us:
At approximately 16:15 a friend and I were anchoring a RIB just off the beach. I was approached by a man in a wetsuit who asked for assistance as he had lost his jet ski. We then noticed an unmanned jet ski that was underway (approximately 3 knots) about 100m offshore. Using our RIB, we made our way out towards the unmanned jet ski. In the interim another jet ski intercepted the unmanned jet ski. We then noticed the rescue jet ski had recovered an unknown person from the water who looked tired and was not wearing a wetsuit or life preserver.
The owner of the jet ski shouted across and asked where the other jet ski occupant was. Realising the urgency of the situation I asked him to confirm if there was somebody still missing. On receiving confirmation, we set off to look for the missing person and very quickly located the second individual and recovered him. On being dragged aboard the RIB it was apparent that this individual was extremely tired, wearing no equipment and was intoxicated. He thanked us for “saving his life”. We returned to the rescue craft and the owner of the unmanned jet ski informed us that it was his brother’s friends who had been drinking all day and had taken the jet ski without permission. They had obviously not worn the kill cord and had fallen off the jet ski, which then continued unmanned.
Both recovered persons were transferred to the local beach lifeguard station by the rescue jet ski. Upon returning to my original location I noticed a lifeboat rescue craft whose crew confirmed they were looking for a jet ski and two persons in the water. I relayed the above information and advised that they liaise with the beach lifeguard station to confirm the casualties were safe and well.
CHIRP engaged with the reporter who revealed he was an off-duty Coastguard SAR pilot, which explained his familiarity with lifeboat procedures. The reporter also stated, “It was an eye opener to be involved in some small part with an incident as I was, and to witness the issues and confusion that can quickly arise at sea level”.
This report contains many learning points but at the top of the list is the fact that alcohol and the water do not mix. If that simple fact is not taken on board, then all the rest are a little bit blurred. Such as:
- Always wear the engine kill cord
- Always wear a PFD (buoyancy aid)
- Always wear suitable clothing – once outside the tropics, even in the summer, a lightweight wet suit is appropriate.
Jet skis are great fun and reasonably affordable to many people, and while most jet ski owners are responsible and conscientious, this particular mode of water sports has attracted a hooligan element. Those people who, through ignorance or temperament, do not care about the safety or enjoyment of other people using the water, and who think that the guidance, rules and regulations, which are there for the safety of everyone, do not apply to them, yet still seem to expect others to come to their aid when they get into trouble.
Many organisations are working very hard to educate and encourage jet ski and other water sport users to enjoy their sport responsibly and safely. Proactive videos have been produced and new signage developed to guide and educate. However, jet skis and other personal watercraft slip through gaps in the regulations, and these gaps need to be closed up so that deliberate and persistent exhibitions of hooligan-type behaviour can be prosecuted.