Lethal Water Jets?

I received a press release the other day from a PR flak announcing that a law firm he represents had recently won a big case. Presumably, I got the release because the defendant was Bombardier, which of course manufactures personal watercraft—or more colloquially, jet skis.

It seems the plaintiff sued the company because she was riding as a passenger on a Sea-Doo and fell off the back end—apparently the driver accelerated quickly and she wasn't holding on tightly. According to the release, the woman was "severely injured," both externally and internally.

While the woman's injuries are regrettable, she was wearing no protective clothing—nothing but a bathing suit (no wet suit, and more to the point, the driver admitted that he had not read the clearly affixed warning label or the owner's manual, or watched the Sea-Doo safety video. I concluded from the press release that this was one of those unusual cases of operator ignorance and/or error in which a plaintiff, who had acted imprudently and then refused to take responsibility for his/her actions, did not prevail.

But that's not what really impressed me about this release. What absolutely shocked me is the fact that the woman received what everyone agreed were serious injuries solely from contact with that water blast coming out of the jet nozzle. According to the press release, "she did not strike any portion of the vessel."

I had no idea that a jet-ski's water-jet blast could do such damage the human body, and I began to wonder if the typical water-jet-powered boat owner does either. Admittedly, this woman probably fell right in front of the nozzle when the throttle was wide open, but remember also that this was a jet ski. There are hundreds, if not thousands of water-jet-powered large boats (and yachts) on the water today whose engine-jet combinations are far, far more powerful and which supposedly produce much stronger jet blasts. Supposedly, whatever safe distance one should maintain from the jet blast on a jet ski should be multiplied many times for one of these larger boat. But do the owners know this?

Considering that this is the first time I've heard of this kind of injury, there's hardly any cause for panic; incidents like this are probably very rare. But if you own a boat of any kind that is powered by water-jets or if you know someone who does or if you just find yourself swimming around one of these vessels, it would pay to give them a wide berth around the aftersections. Because if you are injured, you can't rely on the boat manufacturer to pay your medical bills.

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