Need mandatory boater education

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2005

Peter Barrett's father questions the Coast Guard response in the death of his son.

Any loss of life is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to the family of Peter Barrett. None of us is an Alaskan for very long without knowing someone who dies in Alaska waters.

Alaska's recreational boating fatality rate is many times the national average, a sad fact that the survivors must live with. In the case of Peter Barrett, questioning the Coast Guard's response is much like blaming the fox after we've left the hen house door open. Writer Tony Carroll's story does not uncover the real culprit. Peter Barrett died in 41-degree water because of a lack of proper risk management. Mr. Barrett was apparently unable to self-rescue and was not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, a drysuit. Alaska's waters are extremely unforgiving, and Alaskans are notoriously underprepared.

Mandatory boater safety education could have saved Peter Barrett. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and the state of Alaska offer recreational boating safety classes to the public. There are also several online self-study courses available, but voluntary education will not be enough. We will continue to mourn our lost friends, neighbors and family, victims of ignorance, and our collective inability to "keep the hen house door shut."

Mike Folkerts

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary


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