Coast Guard Stresses Use of 'Kill Cords'; 2 Go Overboard Without Them

Following two life-threatening incidents last week within a span of five days, the Coast Guard is warning mariners of the risk they're taking when they don't properly use a vessel's engine "kill cord." USCG describes the device as a lanyard, similar to those found on treadmills, designed for one end to attach to the boat and the other end to attach to the operator so that if the person falls overboard, the engine will immediately disable.

"It's alarming how many people will just plug the lanyard into the boat without attaching it to themselves," said Petty Officer 2nd Class John Brooks, a boat coxswain at Coast Guard Station Gloucester. "It's a reckless move that not only puts their life in danger, but also poses a dire risk to everyone else in the area."

At about 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 14, Station Gloucester was called to Cranes Beach, Mass., where a 10-foot inflatable boat with no one on board was making large circles at about six mph. Eventually the boat started heading toward the beach and ran aground. Another nearby boater pulled the operator out of the water.

Earlier that week, on Aug. 10, the station was alerted of a 13-foot Boston Whaler going in circles with no one on board near Davis Neck in Cape Ann, Mass. When the station boat crew got to the scene, the Boston Whaler was headed toward other vessels in the area, but after crossing its own wake, the outboard engine ripped off the boat's transom, causing the vessel to stop immediately. The 15-year-old operator, who was the only person on board, was picked up from the water by another passing boater.

"In both of these cases, the boat operators were extremely lucky," said Brooks, who responded to both calls. "There is an endless possibility of things that could have gone wrong here. But most likely they could have been run over by their own boats or their vessels could have collided with other mariners."

Neither of the two boat operators had the "kill cord" attached to himself, and neither one was wearing a life jacket, Brooks said.

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