“The men were not wearing lifejackets and the boat capsized so quickly that they did not have time to put them on before being thrown in to the sea.”

This is an all too familiar story, with tragic consequences for the trio, one of whom drowned. All could have been avoided if they’d been wearing their lifejackets.

New Zealand Maritime Rules require that every pleasure boat carry a lifejacket (or Personal Flotation Device / PFD) for every person on board. The lifejacket must be serviceable, the correct size and type, and meet NZ Standard 5823;2005.

Under the Rules it is the skipper’s legal responsibility to ensure that the lifejackets are worn at times of heightened risk, such as when crossing river bars, in emergencies or rough weather. Children, non-swimmers and less mobile people should always wear a lifejacket, particularly in small boats.

Some councils (under local Bylaw) in New Zealand go further by requiring lifejackets to be worn at all times so it pays to check if you are planning on going boating in another area.

Why wear lifejackets?

Most drownings involve smaller boats, such as dinghies, which are prone to capsize.

Many accidents occur suddenly and without warning, leaving no time to grab a lifejacket unless it is close at hand. Even if you are able to grab it, they are very difficult to put on in the water when other factors such as shock, cold and panic come in to play.

Not only do lifejackets provide more than flotation, but by allowing the person to remain still in the water they help to conserve energy and the onset of hypothermia.

Click on the link in the resources panel (right) to download practical information on choosing a buoyancy aid for children.