If there’s one thing former Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway Water Patrol Officer Adam Lucas has learned, it’s that you don’t need to be in the water to have a boating accident.
Running late one morning, he said he quickly hooked up a patrol boat to his truck and rushed to the lake to meet with another officer. While traveling across a rough bridge, he noticed an unusually loud sound. Naturally, he glanced into his rear view mirror.
“I saw my boat going left when my truck was still going straight,” he said. “The trailer had come off its hitch and was dragging on the safety chains behind the truck.”
Panicking, Lucas said he slammed on the breaks, which caused the trailer to slam into the back of his truck and damage the tailgate. Although no one was injured, his pride suffered quite a bit.
“The worst part of the whole experience was that my supervisor made me investigate my own accident and file an accident report that showed I was at fault for ‘failure to give full time and attention’”, he said.
Lucas said this experience taught him to always double checking a tow hitch to make sure it is properly secured. In addition, the tow chains must be fastened correctly. In his case they were, otherwise the person in the car behind his could have been seriously injured.
Another scary experience he said he had was when his coworker, dressed in full duty gear, fell overboard while trying to get a dog back on board. Because it was spring and the water was cold, the shock of falling in sucked up most of her strength.
“What made this scary was that the boat didn’t have a swim platform or any type of ladder to get her back in,” he said. “The shore was about a half mile away and she wasn’t wearing a life jacket.”
Using a rocking technique he learned during boating training, Lucas pushed his coworker into the water and pulled her up higher and higher as momentum built. Eventually, he was able to pull her over the stern and subsequently rescue the dog.
He said the most important safety tips are to steer all blind corners extra wide, wear a life jacket while on the water, and drink plenty of water while boating. As for the latter, cool breezes often mask heat exhaustion, which was their most common EMS call.
As one last piece of advice, Lucas said people should not think they won’t get caught or charged with a DWI while boating. Boating can be more dangerous than driving a car, especially if there is alcohol involved.
“During the summer, we made just as many boating DWI arrests as my fellow road officers made on the street,” he said.