[DELETE] Are boating fatalities on the rise? I suggest we create a mini data base for discussion purposes... PHILZZZ New
You've really been around since the beginning, so you probably have a unique perspective that many of us newcomers (if you can call a 42 year veteran a "newcomer") do not, and by that I mean you probably have a sense of where this whole thing started and where it's gone, and what the cost and consequence has been. For example I know that you've been on the scene of at least one fatal drowning in progress that I know of, probably more, I've been involved in several rescues both as a paddler and as a rescue professional, and we both have lost dear friends to the river. Both of us look at a rise in boater fatalities and injuries and wonder if we're doing enough as padders and if our sport is doing enough to answer that rise. I don't know what the answer is, if it lies in more safety instruction (I doubt it, that seems well covered in most basic settings), public information (Valtrex commercials aside, what does the general public think of us and our sport, what we do and why we do it?), or possibly a re-evaluation of what we glorify, and I'm speaking here of my favorite whipping boy, one that I've flogged here and elsewhere to the point of nauseum, "Paddle Porn". Do we really want to put out there that the extreme edge of our sport is the benchmark that we all aspire to? Is dropping at the mercy of gravity alone over Pallouse Falls what we want the perception of what we do to be the image people in general have of us? How is that any different than the image of Jesse Sharpe running Niagara in a Gyramax?
I've been called a "safety weinie", "paddle nag", and most recently an "asshole" (that one right here) for beating the drum, but I'll take all of that if it produces even small steps toward making our sport safer and reducing the agonizing rate of mortality and morbidity among paddlers and those of the general public who also want to enjoy the river safely. I'll continue to do that in the memory of the half dozen paddler friends I've lost so far, including one or two that you and I know in common, including one of my dearest friends whose passing four years ago I observed with his widow and father just last week at the scene of his death on the Blackfoot River in Eastern Idaho. I can't think of another association in my life that has caused as much premature death among my close friends as whitewater, not my 33 year career as a firefighter and paramedic nor my avocation in aviation, including aerobatics. There's something massively screwed up about that!