MCA reveals lives that could have been saved by lifejackets –

MCA reveals lives that could have been saved by lifejackets Published:  24 May, 2013

The Maritime Coastguard Agency has revealed that 136 people’s lives may have been saved during the last six years if they had been wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.

These figures, which cover coastal areas only, have been compiled by a panel of experts who are committed to water safety.

All fatalities categorised by the Casualty Review Panel as being possible, probable or unlikely that a properly fitted lifejacket would have saved a life.

Of the 45 fatalities considered appropriate for review for the calendar year 2012, the Casualty Panel agreed that in 20 cases a lifejacket or buoyancy aid would “probably” or “possibly” have saved a person’s life. These 20 fatalities cover a range of activities. For the purpose of a general overview, the following statistics focus on gender, age, location and time of day.

There were 19 male fatalities and one female (95% male)Seventy-five per cent of the fatalities were aged 19 years or over and three out of the four child fatalities came from one incident.

Fifteen of the 20 people involved were not wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid. The five other fatalities were considered in three separate incidents where buoyancy aids or lifejackets were worn. Of the five who were wearing one, three casualties were aged 0 to five years and two casualties were over the age of 36 (the three children were all involved in one incident). They were categorised as ‘probably or possibly’ because either their device did not have enough buoyancy or it was not maintained / fitted correctly.

In terms of location, taking into account that these fatalities happened predominantly within the UK search and rescue area, half occurred on the coast, shore or beach. The remainder occurred at sea or in rivers with one in docks and one in harbour.

Nine out of the ten fatalities on the coast and three out of four fatalities on rivers were anglers or kayakers.

Time of death is represented by morning (6am to 12noon), afternoon (12noon to 6pm), evening (6pm to midnight) and night (midnight to 6am). There is an even number of fatalities spread between morning, afternoon and evening. There were no fatalities, considered probable or possible which occurred at night.

In terms of probable events, 50% happened in the morning and 40% in the evening with a small number in the afternoon. For possible events, half occurred in the afternoon with the other half spread between morning and evening.

The majority of those who died in motorboating incidents in 2012 did so as a result of their injuries and therefore were not appropriate for this exercise.

There was one sailing incident where the panel considered a person’s life may have been saved if they had been wearing a lifejacket. Although the panel did not judge that a lifejacket may have saved a person’s life in four other sailing incidents it noted that two fatalities occurred immediately after the casualty had purchased a new boat. In these two cases, the person had not sailed for a number of years, the weather conditions were poor and they had ignored safety advice.

There were no commercial shipping or commercial fishing incidents in 2012 where the panel considered a personal floatation device such as a lifejacket may have saved a person’s life. There were, however a number of fatal incidents involving commercial vessels and fishing vessels in 2012 and a more detailed analysis of the circumstances will be undertaken to identify any potential safety improvements that can be recommended.

In at least three incidents the casualty made a conscious decision to swim to a drifting boat, underestimating their personal ability, the strength of currents and the temperature of the water. These factors all contributed to the loss of lives.