In what is being described as "some of the deadliest days in recent memory in Maryland in fatal boating accidents" by Natural Resources Police, law enforcement have announced two deaths related to a Jet Ski incident in Edgewater, Anne Arundel County, adding to a spate of water-related deaths earlier in the week. The names of the victims, a man and a woman, have not been released, as law enforcement officials have not completed the process of notifying their families.
The cause of the accident which claimed the two lives was not immediately clear. Witnesses at the scene reported hearing "the sound of a collision" and called for help when the two did not return. Rescuers located a partially submerged Jet Ski in the river. The spokesman for the county's fire department stated that the Jet Ski had hit a type of “navigational aide,” which looked like a utility pole that was in the water.
Local fire officials expressed concern as this incident has been part of a troubling trend: six water-related deaths in Anne Arundel County have occurred since Saturday. In addition to the two most recent victims, a 39-year-old Secret Service agent died Saturday in a kayaking accident, two others who went missing while crabbing in Stoney Creek on Saturday were found dead Monday. No details for the sixth death was provided.
Anne Arundel County officials urged anyone planning on engaging in water-related recreation to follow proper safety protocols, including wearing personal flotation devices, having flotation devices aboard boats, informing others of their activities and when they plan to return, and refraining from operating a watercraft while impaired.
It is true that everyone wishing to enjoy Maryland's vast outdoor water-related recreation opportunities should follow all relevant safety protocols, but are outdoor accidents always the fault of the victim?
Not necessarily. Jet Skis, kayaks, and any other watercraft must be designed, manufactured, and sold in a condition that renders them safe for their intended use. If a design, manufacturing, or sales defect were to occur that makes an accident more likely to happen, victims may have recourse against the organizations responsible for manufacturing or selling the craft in a defective product lawsuit.
Additionally, when you swim and boat in waters (including areas such as beaches, docks, riverfronts, and swimming pools), the entity responsible for maintaining the premises has a duty to keep the premises free of unreasonable hazards. This duty extends to hotels/resorts, municipalities, and other private homeowners. Keeping a waterfront safe may include myriad responsibilities, such as maintaining a staff of lifeguards, posting appropriate warning signs when guests may enter an area with known hazards, such as riptides or dangerous sea creatures, keeping fixtures such as docks and steps in good repair, ensuring adequate lighting, and more.