Not questioning Coast Guard response

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, May 03, 2005

In response to Mike Folkerts' April 10 letter to the editor, "Need mandatory boater education," a number of Peter Barrett's friends, including us parents, are upset.

First, Folkerts states that we parents "question the Coast Guard's response in the death of our son."

We are surprised that Mr. Folkerts is so uninformed. Rather than questioning the Coast Guard's response, we publicly expressed thanks for their efficiency and professionalism.

Instead what we did question was the adequacy of the entire rescue system. (This was printed in detail in our April 18 My Turn.)

Folkerts builds upon his wrong interpretation when he further surmises that "questioning the Coast Guard's response was much like blaming the fox after the hen door had been left open." He further insists that writer Tony Carroll's story does not uncover the real culprit, that "Peter Barrett died in 41 degree water because of a lack of proper risk management and proper personal protective equipment, a dry suit."

First, we don't believe that a dry suit is a standard "proper protective equipment" for a kayaker.

Secondly, giving the simile of "the fox getting the hens after the hen door was left open" suggests strongly that Folkerts believes that our son took a high risk and that he lacked basic boater safety education.

To the contrary, Peter Barrett was an experienced kayaker who was educated in boater safety. He was in superb physical shape. He was also known for taking great precautions, whether he was kayaking or snowboarding. He was definitely not "a victim of ignorance."

If Mr. Folkerts had taken the time to read the official Coast Guard report, he would have learned that the total risk score of Peter's activity was "low." The report further emphasizes that "the individual was wearing a life jacket and outdoor clothing. That he was prepared for being outside, but not water immersion."

Concluding, we are convinced that it had to be a very unusual circumstance (like a marine mammal) that caused the kayak to flip over, rather than risky behavior on the part of our son, as Mr. Folkerts suggests.

Joe and Gertrude Barrett

Port Angeles, Wash.

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