As boating safety month winds down on InjuryBoard, another tragedy in Utah serves as a reminder that constant safety vigilance is required when on the water. Six men headed out on Monday for a fishing trip on Utah Lake. According to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune, one of the six men bought the 18 foot, flat bottom boat earlier that day. The group then headed out for fun on the water.
According to some in the group, the weather was fine when they left the marina but once on the water, wind and waves picked up quickly and swamped the boat before they could put on life jackets. The boat sunk and the six were left to fend for themselves. Five of the six eventually made it to shore, but the boat operator, 33 year old Lon Thongthipvoravong, was last seen about three hours after the boat sunk clinging to the boat motor cover. Sonar scans located the boat yesterday where they expected to find it near Utah Lake State Park, but there is still no sign of Thongthipvoravong. Authorities have now indicated that efforts have moved from search and rescue to recovery. Thongthipvoravong leaves behind a wife, three children and an extended family.
This incident highlights how quickly conditions can change and when on larger bodies of water like Utah Lake, getting to safety can take longer and be more complicated. It is critical that one be aware of weather conditions from the outset and to monitor them while on the water, critical to know the capabilities and limitations of your boat, and in most circumstances, critical to put your life jacket on before you get on the boat and to keep it on for the duration of the trip. With luck, tragedies like the one that struck the Thongthipvoravong family this week can be avoided in the future.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.