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Published: Thursday, 1/6/2005

7 Ohio boating deaths in '04 record low

COLUMBUS - Seven people died in recreational boating accidents during 2004, the lowest number of fatalities since the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Watercraft was formed in 1960 and began keeping records.

During 2003, 19 people died.

The previous record low was 10 fatalities in 1996. The record high was 73 deaths in 1973, John Wisse, Division of Watercraft spokesman, said.

Three of the 2004 deaths were in northwest Ohio waters, Mr. Wisse said.

They were:

●A 22-year-old man who died July 3 in Lake Erie near the Vermilion River in Erie County when he jumped from his boat to retrieve a lost anchor line.

●A 55-year-old man who died Aug. 1 when he fell off a dock of a Lake Erie marina in Ottawa County and was unable to climb aboard the stern of his docked boat.

●A 70-year-old man who died Aug. 4 when he fell off a boat in Sandusky Bay while fishing with three companions.

Those who died in 2004 were not wearing personal flotation devices or not wearing them correctly.

One factor in the low number of deaths was that "the weather was not real conducive to a lot of boating activity," Mr. Wisse said.

Still, the drop in the number of deaths "reflects a continued and very long-term trend," Mr. Wisse said. He attributed the trend to increased boater safety education, increased law enforcement, and increased public awareness.

"You don't want to see anybody die in a boating-related accident, but the fact that the number dropped [in 2004] is good for the entire boating community," Mr. Wisse said.

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