BOATING SAFETY: Experts urge preparation, warn of speed, alcohol - FOX 10 News |

BOATING SAFETY: Experts urge preparation, warn of speed, alcohol

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Photo by Jonathan Choe Photo by Jonathan Choe
Photo by Jonathan Choe Photo by Jonathan Choe

Despite the cool, rainy weather, boating season has begun and for agencies that respond to accidents on area waterways, promoting safety is a top priority.

A deadly Wednesday night accident on the St. Croix River highlighted the need for boaters to take precautions before taking to the water, and the crash that claimed the life of a Minnesota man while injuring two others has safety experts emphasizing personal responsibility as a tool in accident prevention.

Two people are still recovering after the Formula 400 SS smashed into a rock face near Knnickinnic State Park, and crews struggled to remove the wreckage on Thursday. According to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, the crash occurred just before midnight.

Paul Sickman, with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, told FOX 9 News the crash marks the first major accident on the St. Croix River this year -- but he admitted it may not be the last.

"On the water, it's a little bit different than on the roads," he said. "We don't have painted lanes. We don't' have street lights, stop signs."

According to the DNR, speed and alcohol continue to be the leading cause of problems during boating season.

"Especially at low light or night conditions," Sickman explained.

Yet, Sickman warns lack of preparation can be just as a dangerous.

"Make sure you know your equipment," he urged. "Make sure everything's working properly."

The DNR also recommends looking up free maps to get familiar with any new waterway -- and being wary on the first voyage. Being prepared also entails wearing life jackets and having a designated driver if there's drinking aboard the boat.

"I'm the most responsible one here," Kenneth Firestone told FOX 9 News with a laugh.

Firestone manned the captain's chair while his son and friends went out for fishing and a bachelor party.

"So far as the wedding, my plan is showing up," Wade Firestone quipped.

All joking aside, however, the accident was still on everyone's mind as they reminded themselves that safety comes before fun.

"Some accidents are not preventable, but most are," Kenneth Firestone said.

Investigators did find alcohol in the crashed boat, but they are not linking it to the accident right now. Daniel Shultz, 55, was treated at Regions Hospital and has since been released. Patrick Puhalla, 46, remains hospitalized in good condition.

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