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Prepare for the Worst

Prepare for the Worst

CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 2 SAMUEL J. WATTE
A Company, 2nd Battalion,
160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)
Fort Campbell, Kentucky

I am a longtime water sports enthusiast and take safety very seriously. I have all the required boating safety equipment in accordance with the Tennessee Department of Wildlife Resources, plus a few extra items I have deemed necessary over the years. I always inspect that equipment, as well as my boat, before I leave the house for a day on the water. Once at the marina and before we launch, I even give a safety brief for those with me who are not familiar with boating. Despite all of this, things can still go wrong.

On this day, the plan was to take a few experienced wakeboarders out on the water for a few hours. I prepped the boat myself and was going to link up with the rest of the crew at the boat landing. Upon arriving at the marina, I noticed there were more people waiting on the dock than I had expected. This wasn’t an issue, though; we still had enough room on the boat for two extra people.

We launched the boat without incident. Everything was going according to plan and we proceeded down river to our wakeboard spot. We used this particular site because it was out of the way and clear of boat traffic and other hazards.

At the drop point, there were six people onboard, four of which were trained and proficient at towing a skier. Although one of the women had never wakeboarded before, she wanted to give it a try. “She’s good to go, man,” her boyfriend said. “She used to water ski all the time.”

I had no reason to doubt his word. He, after all, knew her better. She strapped onto the board, put on her life jacket and pushed off the boat. After giving me a thumbs up signaling she was ready, we took off. A few minutes later, she let go and fell into the water, so I turned back to pick her up. She obviously was having fun and wanted to go again. “This time, I’m going to try a jump across the wake,” she yelled.

After seeing her previous attempt, I figured she could do it. I revved the engine and took off. She immediately went for the jump, which would require about 20 feet of airtime to clear the wake. She overshot the wake, however, and hit the water face first. At the time, I wasn’t overly concerned because spills like this are common. I turned the boat around to pick her up for another run when her boyfriend sounded an alarm. “Hey, I think she hit the water hard,” he yelled. “She’s holding her head.”

When I pulled up near her, I noticed she had suffered a large gash to her head and was bleeding profusely. She was screaming and holding her head in pain. We pulled her out of the water and I immediately applied a field dressing to stop the bleeding. Fortunately for her, I always come prepared and was carrying a combat lifesaver bag onboard. She appeared confused and was beginning to lose consciousness. I continued rendering first aid and supported her head while we sped back to the marina. It took about 10 minutes at max speed to get back to the emergency aid station.

The accident put a damper on things, so we called it a day and everyone went home. My friend and I, however, stayed and followed the ambulance to the hospital. There, the ER doctor told us that she had suffered a mild concussion and that the 7-inch gash to her head would require staples. He said had we not applied a field dressing to her wound, she probably would have lost consciousness.

We concluded that the wakeboard must have struck her in the head when she fell. She was very lucky that I always carry the lifesaver bag with me wherever I go. It very well could have saved her life. Because of this, I resolved to always carry a lifesaver bag in all of my vehicles. After all, one can never be too prepared.

  • 1 July 2015
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 10343
  • Comments: 0
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