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Boat Propeller Safety: Keys Out of Ignition

March 22, 2019 | Category: Boating Accidents | Share

The March 8, 2019 death of a woman on Fort Myers Beach from a boat propeller accident, while she was in the water, raises the questions, “How do boat propeller accidents happen, and how can these accidents be prevented?”

Fort Myers Boat Accident Attorney Randall Spivey of Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. says, “Boat propellers are extremely dangerous. Not only Boat Propeller Safety: Keys Out of Ignition - Spivey Lawshould engines be off, but keys should be out of the ignition anytime people are getting in or out of the water. Propellers are very sharp and dangerous. The boat operator must make sure engines are off anytime people are in the water, including if people are trying to move a boat that is stuck on a sandbar.”

A 2012 BoatU.S. magazine article on avoiding boat propeller injuries cited another accident:

“The accident occurred so suddenly that most of the people aboard thought the 20-foot boat had bumped bottom. It hadn't. A man on the bow, who was seated on the gunwale, had been bounced over the side when the boat struck a wake at high speed, and a split second later, he was struck by the propeller. The boat's owner responded by throwing the engine into neutral and spinning the boat around, but it was already too late. Despite a frantic search, the body was not found until days later.”

The official handbook for Washington State Parks says that most boat propeller accidents are caused by operator error, and the victims include swimmers, scuba divers, fallen water-skiers, passengers or boat operators. The handbook says that most of the accidents can be prevented by following basic safe-boating practices such as:

  • Making sure the engine is off so that the propeller is not rotating when passengers are boarding or leaving the vessel.
  • Maintaining a proper lookout. Operator inattention is the primary cause of propeller strike accidents.
  • Never starting a boat with the engine in gear.
  • Slowing down when approaching congested areas and anchorages. In congested areas, always be alert for swimmers and divers.
  • Learning to recognize warning buoys that mark swimming and hazardous areas.
  • Keeping the boat away from marked swimming and diving areas. Becoming familiar with the red and white or blue and white diver-down flags signaling that divers are below the surface.
  • Making sure that passengers are seated properly before getting underway. Some operators of larger boats with several passengers have caused injuries by putting the engine in gear while people were still swimming or diving from the boat.
  • Never allowing passengers to ride on a seatback, gunwale, transom, or bow.

A Journal of Trauma & Treatment 2015 article on propeller injuries in the United States says that injuries in motorboat propeller accidents can be extensive because of blood loss and contamination from uncommon marine organisms. Multiple surgical procedures and extended hospitalization are often required, with lifelong physical impairment as the final outcome.

“Victims of boating accidents in Florida can be compensated for past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, past and future pain and suffering, and past and future loss of the enjoyment of life. Should you or a loved one be injured due to the negligence of another, after seeking medical attention, please contact our experienced boat accident legal team. We are available 24/7, and there are no costs or attorney fees unless we make a monetary recovery for you,” said Attorney Spivey.


Fort Myers Boat Accident Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys.  He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida.  For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to  Visit for more information.  You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.


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