July 18, 2015 - 10:30 AM
HAVE THINGS CHANGED AT ALL IN 22 YEARS?
SHUSWAP - After hearing a young woman was run over by a houseboat and killed on Shuswap Lake, Diane Castle’s first thought was ‘oh no, not again.’
The story took the Calgary woman back 22 years ago to the day her best friend died in the same place, in much the same way. It was horrific, traumatic, and 'spookily similar' she says. Like 22-year-old Edmonton woman Andrea Jacura, who died last weekend when a houseboat backed up overtop of her, Castle’s friend Christine Hingley was sucked into a propeller by a reversing boat, her body torn apart in seconds. Castle remembers rushing to her friend’s side and hearing her say she couldn’t breathe.
“I wanted to know why, so I looked under the boat to see if she was twisted. What I saw is a picture that I can never get out of my head still today: Her body was stuck in the propeller and she had an amputated leg that was lying away from her,” Castle says. “I was the last person she looked up at. I’m glad I was there for her when she took her last breath because she wasn’t alone.”
Like most who tour popular Shuswap Lake on a rented houseboat, Castle was there to have a good time. It was an annual girl’s weekend, but the first time Hingley, a ‘water baby’ was able to get away and join them. During the July 2, 1993 trip, Hingley was invited over to another houseboat to try out a Seadoo. She made it onto the other houseboat, but slipped into the water while attempting to step onto a Seadoo following behind. The houseboat was running, and reversing, at the time; Hingley was yanked into the propeller and killed.
“We had a special friendship,” Castle says. “I’ve never had another one like what her and I had. To say the least, this tragic event changed my life forever.”
Castle was the ‘Cautious Nelly’ of the group and was always assigned to the the captain of the boat. That meant going through a brief training session with the boat company before departing. No one else had to participate before heading out on the water. She remembers being instructed not to reverse unless there were spotters at the rear of the vessel, and she never did. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop another boat from backing into Hingley — or Jacura who was swimming behind a houseboat when it backed over her and amputated her leg. Both women bled to death.
“Without a doubt, it’s going to happen again unless something changes,” Castle says.
It’s hard to know just how much things have changed since Castle’s last house boating trip 22 years ago. Requests for interviews with several Shuswap house boating companies to find out were either declined, or not responded to. According to various company websites, B.C.’s Pleasurecraft Operator’s license is recommended, but not required when renting a houseboat. Generally, an orientation is provided — some are described online as 45 minutes long — and at least one company suggests appointing a few first mates and reviewing safety materials and instructional manuals prior to arrival.
Whatever has been changed, Castle believes is not enough, made plain to her by Jacura’s death. She wants to see cages encasing the propellers and every single house boater — not just the captain — go through a training session before boarding.
“It’s not expert boaters out there, it’s you and me who’ve probably never driven a boat before, and half the people are partying and not paying attention,” Castle says.
She approached the house boating company after Hingley’s death to ask about putting cages on the propellors, but was told seaweed would get caught in them.
The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating Jacura’s death, and spokesperson Larry Marzinzik says all aspects of the accident will be looked at to determine if there are any ‘practical and reasonable’ recommendations they could make to prevent similar deaths in the future. He couldn’t say whether a cage around the propeller would have stopped her death.
Marzinzik said deaths caused by propellors are rare, but noted there could be a greater occurrence of accidents resulting in injury that the coroners service is not aware of. The Coroners Service reports 75 people died in water-related activities such as boating in 2013, and Marzinzik is reminding the public that our region’s waterways can be as dangerous as they are enjoyable.
“Be aware of your surroundings. There’s a lot of people on the lake, there’s consumption of alcohol, and other substances by people on vacation — sometimes they lose sight of what the risks are…. A lot of accidents are preventable if people think about what they are doing.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015