Delaware jet ski death a sober reminder about water safety

WASHINGTON — Few details are immediately available while the matter is investigated, but a death involving a jet ski near Fenwick Island in Delaware is a sober reminder about boating safety.

The accident that killed a 53-year-old man Saturday at around 1:40 p.m. happened on Roy’s Creek, off Assawoman Bay in Sussex County.

“We did rule out alcohol. Alcohol was not a contributing factor to the accident,” said Sgt. Brooke Africa with Delaware Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police.

There’s no projected time for when the man’s identity and other details of what happened will be released.

“Our officers are working around the clock and as fast as we can,” Africa said.

Most people who operate a jet ski in the waters of Delaware or Maryland are required to take a boating safety course.

In Delaware, the rule for certification applies to anyone born on or after January 1, 1978, and is available in a number of formats, including an online option.

“You can even take the course on your smartphone or your tablets. We make it very easy for people to take this course for their safety,” Africa said describing the course as fun and very interactive much like a video game.

The class covers a wide variety of information such as navigation rules, overall safety and requirements for different types of vessels one may use. The certification is good for life.

In Maryland, no one under the age of 16 can drive a jet ski, and anyone born on or after July 1, 1972 has to take the safety course.

The state offers a number of certification options. And watercraft rental agencies in Ocean City, for example, offer boater safety education classes to customers for one-time use.

“Our law was one of the first in the country to say, ‘You have to have a boating safety certificate of operation,'” said Candy Thomson with Maryland Natural Resources Police.

The Maryland law was implemented in the 1980s after a boating accident near Annapolis that injured the son of actor Ryan O’Neal and killed the son of movie director Francis Ford Coppola.

“People need to remember that although [jet skis] are fun, these are boats and they hold the same kind of dangers and issues as any boat would,” Thomson said.

There are 12,000 registered jet skis in Maryland.

If you’re thinking about taking one out on the water, officials have some general recommendations when it comes to the activity: Keep a distance of at least 100 feet between the jet ski and people in the water, and steer clear of docks, piers or other vessels.

“Another important factor of boating is life jackets. There are other safety requirements to have on board your vessel — but life jackets save lives,” Africa said.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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