Focus on outdoor safety precautions

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, April 25, 2005

The community of Juneau was shocked and saddened by the tragedy of Peter Barrett, who died after his kayak overturned last month. An article by Tony Carroll suggests that the emergency crews who responded to the accident were "working at a handicap" because the rescue station was not closer to the accident. The article also implies that the Coast Guard's rescue efforts could have been coordinated better.

These suggestions seem unreasonable, considering the safety equipment that Barrett himself had or didn't have when he went out that day. As a fellow kayaker, when I first heard about the tragedy, I wondered where was his kayaking partner when it happened? Why wasn't he wearing appropriate cold-water gear (the water was 41 degrees) in case he fell over? Did he have a radio, cell phone, or flare in his dry bag to use to call for help?

Peter Barrett chose to go kayaking alone on the frigid and often temperamental waters of Alaska wearing only hiking clothes and a floatation vest. And the Coast Guard is being accused of "working at a handicap"? The only one working at a handicap that day was Barrett, when he went out by himself without proper safety gear for those conditions.

Even if the government paid to put a rescue station and helicopter at every boat harbor in the country, we, the outdoor enthusiasts, would still need to be responsible for having the appropriate equipment for the conditions we choose to go in. Also, rescue crews need to be commended for trying to help us when we make mistakes, not criticized.

Of course, my heart goes out to the family and friends of Peter Barrett. Instead of using his tragedy to shine a negative spotlight on those who tried to save him, perhaps we should be educating the public on the proper precautions that need to be taken when enjoying the great outdoor.

Ami Castle


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