The two boats involved in a fatal weekend accident were shuttling people back and forth from a party on an island in the river. The Des Moines County Sheriff’s office announced they’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened, and whether alcohol was involved in the accident.
What we do know was at least one of the jon boats was significantly overloaded with 11 people on board. Iowa Conservation Officer Ed Kocal says exceeding a boat’s capacity is illegal, and most definitely unsafe.
“Yup, you would be cited,” says Kocal.
All boats are required to have a US Coast Guard plate attached to them; on that plate is information like how many people can safely be on board, a motor rating and a weight limit. Jon boats come in a variety of sizes, but very few are rated to hold up to 11 people.
“It doesn’t matter if the passengers are small people or children, you still cannot exceed whatever the capacity is,” says Kocal.
Making matters worse the boaters were out well after dark, and according to Officer Kocal boating at night is significantly more difficult compared to boating in daylight hours.
“Your depth perception is going to be less and also, basically it’s just going to be a lot harder to see, a lot harder to know where you’re at in relation to shore, so it’s always trickier at night,” adds Kocal.
Carl Hoyt of Grace Marine says his business is booming right now thanks to our unseasonably warm weather. But often times the rush to get on the water has boaters forgetting their most basic safety items.
“We encourage everybody to come in and go through a check list with us, get your fire extinguisher, get your lights, get your throw cushion, get your life jackets for everybody that’s on board, especially the children,” explains Hoyt.
A complete PDF list of U.S. Coast Guard recommendations and requirements can be found here.