Half of Man Overboard Fatalities Are Not Witnessed
Any person who has traveled in the open ocean has had the same fear:
They're standing on the deck, enjoying a quiet moment at sea...
...When they fall into the icy waters. They scream for someone to help, but no one saw them fall. Within seconds, the boat is out of reach, leaving them behind with no one the wiser.
They have 1 minute to regain control of their breathing, 10 minutes to swim to safety, and an hour until hypothermia sets in. Since it's often several minutes before someone even notices a passenger or crew member missing, few people survive a man overboard (MOB) incident. Even in calm waters during daylight hours.
MOB Fatalities & Commercial Boating
Nearly 1 in 4 boating fatalities are caused by MOB, according to research compiled by the BoatUS Foundation.
And despite what you may think, most MOB incidents did not occur at night or during a storm:
- 76 percent happened during the day
- 92 percent of victims were not wearing a life jacket
- 90 percent of deaths happened in calm weather
- 53 percent of deaths were not witnessed
- Alcohol played a role in 1 in 4 daytime deaths
- Alcohol played a role in 1 in 2 nighttime deaths
Vessel owners can purchase equipment or adopt practices to make a MOB fatality less likely. The simplest and easiest one is to never allow anyone to work on deck alone. Working alone, no matter how briefly, makes each person extremely vulnerable. Even experienced crew members shouldn't work alone.
The next simplest measure is to enforce a PFD rule. Most vessels have a compulsory PFD rule, but very few of them enforce it. Vessel crew often only wear lifejackets in choppy weather. However, as BoatUS researchers noted, most MOB events occur with less than 1 foot of chop.
Even in calm weather, wearing a life jacket is vital to the survival of the crew.