December 5, 2020

The Editor speaks: Should we ban jet skis?

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Jet skis are banned on Tobago’s south west peninsula, no jet skis are allowed in Anguilla, and they cannot be used in the British Virgin Islands.

I have to ask the question, “Should jet skis/wave runners be banned here?”

In the wake of the terrible accident last Thursday (24) when a 16 year old cruise ship passenger was knocked off an inflatable banana boat by a jet ski rider, Trina Christian-Savage, Executive Director of the Cayman Islands Tourist Association CITA) called for “everyone to be as careful as possible.” Harry Lalli, president of CITA said his association “will certainly look at the regulations to see if they should be changed.”

This is not the first accident. On Aug. 1st, 2009 a man was thrown from his jet ski in the North Sound Area and it was over an hour before he was found by the RCIPS. He admitted he was lucky to be alive. On 4th July, 2010 a 20 year old man was killed in a wave runner crash when he lost control of the ski and hit a concrete pier in South Sound.

There have many reports of swimmers being hit by jet skis ridden by young teens in our waters. Some of these teens are ‘high’ on alcohol.

Hurtling across the sea at high speeds is a fantastic thrill for many, especially tourists and it appeals to all ages. Our crystal clear water and blue skies make for an idyllic location in which to enjoy jet skiing and the sheer beauty of our seas make many people relax without a care in the world. This picture-perfect setting, however, is not quite so perfect under the surface and can lull all of us into a false sense of security. Jet skis and wave runners are highly dangerous pieces of machinery that are capable of speeds of up to 50 mph, and above.

Most people who hire a jet ski for a short period get little training about how to control the ski, where they are allowed to go on the water, and what to do in an emergency. After a cursory glance by some of the operators to check that the person looks vaguely capable and after a few mumbled sentences that are supposed to suffice as a safety instruction they are off.

However, accidents involving jet skis are numerous. Some of these inexperienced persons lose control and fall into the water awkwardly and often hurt the backs of their necks. Others will have collided with a boat, another jet ski, or a swimmer. The exact number of holiday accidents that happen this way each year is not published. They are a world- wide phenomenon, with deaths from jet skis reported as having happened in Cyprus, the Bahamas, Hawaii, Florida, Fiji, Phuket, California and Bali.

Jet skis are difficult to steer. They do not have a rudder. Power is needed in order to steer a jet ski and when it looks like it may be heading on a collision course, the driver may feel he/she should reduce the power in order to slow it down and regain control. However, once the driver has taken their hand off the throttle, they will lose all control over their steering and cannot force the jet ski to change course. The rider should also have eye protection because of the water spray. I have seen many who don’t.

I hope, at the very least, CITA publish as soon as possible, their regulations concerning people using jet skis including any new restrictions. In an article on the subject published on it claims in California 45% of all injuries occurring in their waters are from jet skis.

Yes, most of the accidents are from inexperienced operators. How does one police that? There is no mandatory test of one’s jet ski skills? Until there is I say ban them.

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