Bob Frye / Tribune-Review
Canoers on a float down the Clarion River.
Remember all that rain last summer? It had one benefit.
Boating accidents, and particularly boating fatalities, were down across the state last year.
Ryan Walt, boating and watercraft safety manager for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, said there were 58 accidents resulting in four deaths last year. In 2014, there were 70 and 17.
Corey Brichter, head of the commission’s law enforcement bureau, said poor weather that kept people off the water more than usual is probably behind the low numbers.
“I don’t think we can say it was anything we did,” Brichter said.
Cases involving skiers where the most common type, with 12. There were 10 capsizings, nine collisions with other boats, eight falls overboard and five fires and explosions.
“A lot of the time it’s just a mistake or a mishap, if you look into some of the incident reports,” Walt said.
All of the fatalities involved unpowered boats. One occurred on the Monongahela River in Allegheny County, another on Lake Arthur in Butler County. Only one of the four people who died was wearing a life jacket, Walt noted.
Drugs and/or alcohol may have been a factor in two of the deaths, according to commission investigation reports. It’s not clear whether any of the four men had any formal boating safety training.
Currently, about 15,000 people a year are taking boating safety courses, Walt said. About 12,000 of those are taken as online courses.
The commission is trying to get a few more classroom courses scheduled, to better share accident information. Brichter said he’s asked each of his waterways conservation officers to conduct two classes in their districts this year.