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Please Boat Safely-Wear Your Kill Switch

Use Your Kill Switch- I Didn’t
by Becky Haynes

Several years ago all outboard motors became equipped with a Kill Switch, to most of us long time boaters this is an annoying piece of equipment. Quickly we figured out how to make a loop on the hook end and drape it over the throttle. “I wear it if I am on the boat alone, or I wear it when I am in rough water” is what you will hear from most boaters you talk to. I personally sat in Mitchell’s Cut late last summer during a weekend and counted 1 out of 35 boats that went by that actually had their kill switch on their wrist. Well, 2 if you count me.

My friends, family and I used to be some of those people, but not anymore. On February 25, 2011 we are celebrating the first anniversary of my boating accident. Yes, I said celebrating because I am still here and able to write this story. I have both of my legs attached and can walk and run without any noticeable change in their function but there is quite a noticeable change in the appearance of one of my calves thanks to running our boat and no kill switch in use. Did I mention that it was a calm day and I had someone in the boat with me?

It couldn’t happen to me I’ve been running a boat for years you say, well I have too. I was raised on the water here in Port O’Connor and taught to run a boat at an early age. There was no drinking on the boat the afternoon of my accident, I didn’t run aground, I was not going fast, the water wasn’t rough, I wasn’t trimmed up or out too far, the water wasn’t too shallow and there was no horseplay going on. I had been running the boat I was driving for 5 years and the boat had never “swapped ends” or even attempted to swap ends before nor have other boats of the same make been known to swap ends. Basically, every reason anybody could come up with that might have caused the accident was ruled out. I wasn’t wearing my kill switch, the throttle was wearing it at the time the Good Lord decided for me to have a freak accident.

When the boat swapped ends I was thrown overboard and the few seconds that it took the person sitting next to me to reach and turn off the engine was just seconds enough for the prop to pass over my leg and come very close to removing it.

I was lucky, very lucky because we were a great distance from the dock and the prop had cut a blood vessel in my calf, I could have bled to death. My dad was in his boat a short distance in front of us and heard the prop noise. When he turned around I was gone and he quickly returned to investigate. I tease and say that was the day my dad straightened out the back bays, it seemed like we were at the dock in no time and made no turns. Thank You Dad!

Over the last year I have had 4 surgeries, numerous hospital stays, and crutches for months and more Doctor visits and bills than anyone should ever have to endure. I have met a lot of people that have shared stories of prop related boating accidents that have happened recently all along the coast and on various lakes. There are a lot more of them than we see in the newspapers, internet or on TV. I’m blessed, mine seems to have had one of the best endings. The one thing all of these accidents have in common is that no one on the boat was wearing the Kill Switch.

As the Dr would let me, still using crutches and not able to stand more than 10 minutes in an hour, I was back in the boat doing what I love, fishing and driving the boat again. But now the Kill Switch is firmly placed around my wrist and not removed until the engine is completely off.

The little loop under the pocket on your “Fishing” shirt is put there to clip your kill switch to; life jackets if you wear one also have a loop. Your belt loop works too. Since I am usually in a bathing suit I found a comfortable wrist kill switch holder at Academy for $12.99 that is intended for Personal Watercraft. If you don’t want to wear the kill switch make whomever is sitting next to you wear it and instruct them to jerk their arm to pull the key if someone falls off the boat or something goes wrong. What if you the driver has a Heart Attack?

There really isn’t a “Good Reason” not to wear it and I can give you a lot of “Good Reasons” why you should. I will even show you pictures if you need more persuasion, I promise they aren’t pretty. A moving prop can amputate mame or kill a lot of things very quickly but a kill switch key pulled can stop that prop from having any power behind it.

I would like to again Thank My Dad and Friend that was on the boat with me, ALL of the Volunteer First Responders that were at the dock waiting on the boat to arrive, Dr Barber, Dr Mondolfi and the great Medical Staff I encountered from the dock to Citizens Hospital for the prompt and great care I was given. I would also like to thank my family and friends for being so supportive to me through this long journey of recovery I have been and are still on. It hasn’t been easy and I couldn’t have made it without you. I think we have finally made it to the home stretch. I pray everyone that reads this learns from our experience and utilizes that once annoying coiled cord with a key on one end and hook on the other called a KILL SWITCH could save their life or the life of someone they love.

6 Responses

  1. Loretta Brown

    Hey Becky, so glad you are here to celebrate. Good information thanks for the heads up.

    February 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm

  2. Wow! Very moving! Thanks for sharing. We love you!

    February 26, 2011 at 1:30 am

  3. Autumn Hrncir

    Hey Becky! I was moved reading your story, for I had no idea of the details. We just got a boat, and we will now be wearing the kill switch, especially carrying our precious cargo! Thank you so much for sharing. Hope all is well.


    February 26, 2011 at 2:24 am

  4. Tommy Gregorcyk

    Becky, I haven’t met you yet but do know Mahlon and as he can tell you what happened to you has changed the way we at Patterson fish. It is with the kill switch attached. Glad you are recovering. That is a great article. I’d love to learn that short cut thru the bays:)

    March 1, 2011 at 6:30 pm

  5. debra kennedy

    Good safety article Becky …. I would post the pictures because that would sink it home and make a believer out of anyone that saw the them!!!!! like she said they aint pretty and thats an understatement!

    March 10, 2011 at 1:56 pm

  6. John Miller

    Hi Beckey, just read your story and glad to here you doing better. Back in summer of 1995 I came across a party boat in distress with a lady on board and pointing to a distance in the water and seen a head bobbing up and down ran to it and the water was like a pool of red color. I jumped in and he died in my arms before we could get him the boat. Cut story short. The stearing cable broke underway boat did a front to back no kill switch on and ran over him twice. I know what your pictures would look like. God Bless and safe boating.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm

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