“Never Happens” Tells True Stories of Water Tragedies

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New Video Will Be Shown in Driver Ed Features Teens Talking To Peers

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AUSTIN — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has released a sobering video aimed at motivating teens and young adults to follow simple safety guidelines while boating. It debuts in the wake of an unusually high number of drownings and fatal boating accidents across the state in recent weeks.

“The video, ‘Never Happens: True Stories From Texas Boaters and Swimmers,’ is a compelling reminder to be safe on the water by wearing a life jacket, learning to swim and closely supervising children to prevent drowning,” said Tim Spice, TPWD’s boater education manager. “Thanks to the Texas legislature, which mandated the new video and directed that it to be shown in driver education classes, the message will be reaching some 225,000 15- and 16-year-olds annually.”

In the video, which will be shown to all teenagers taking driver education courses, several teenagers who witnessed or survived a boating accident or drowning tell their tragic stories.

A Jet Ski accident changed the life of one of the teenagers in the video, Zack Parker.

“Their jet ski crushed my knee into eight pieces,” recalls Parker in the video. “Lacerated my spleen, liver and pancreas. My aorta had… torn. I’m alive because I was wearing a life jacket.”

Parker survived. A friend of Katy Copeland did not.

“They tell you what they did, how hard they tried, and that she just wouldn’t, she just wouldn’t come back,” Copeland said. “And that’s what happened.”

Since May 9, at least 24 people have lost their lives on Texas waters in boating or swimming accidents worked by Texas game wardens, an unusually high number of fatalities.

Last year in Texas, 146 accidents were reported by the U.S. Coast Guard, 31 of which ended with deaths. Statistics show many of these tragedies could have been prevented.

“The Coast Guard says that 90 percent of the people who drowned in a boating related accident would be alive if they had a life jacket on,” Spice said. “That’s significant.”

State law requires that a personal floatation device is available for each occupant of a boat, and children under 13 years of age are mandated by the law to wear one while the boat or paddle craft is underway or drifting.

The video resulted from HB 673, authored by Rep. Tan Parker, with help from Rep. Lyle Larson to secure funding for the project.

Stressed in the video are four basic precautions for boaters of any age:

  • Wear a life jacket. Most persons who have died in a boating accident would be alive today if they had worn a life jacket.
  • Use the ignition safety switch. Commonly called a "kill switch," it stops the engine if you fall overboard. Don’t be stranded, or run over by your boat.
  • Learn how to swim.
  • Take a Boater Education course from TPWD: It could save your life.

TPWD produced a 2:41 video news report about “Never Happens” for use by news outlets. View the news video on YouTube at http://youtu.be/P1TMSoS4OVo

For a high resolution download of the news video, go to

http://tpwd.texas.gov/files/video/, and look for the file “May VNR_Never Happens.”

To see the full 10:36 “Never Happens” video, as it will be shown in driver education classes, go to the TPWD webpage at http://www.tpwd.texas.gov and click on Boating and Safety.

It is mandatory for anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993 to obtain a boater’s education certificate before they can legally operate a vessel with a rating of more than 15 horsepower. Anyone supervising the operation of a vessel by another must be 18 or older and exempt from the boater education requirement (born before 1993) or have a boater education certificate.

For information about boater education courses, visit: http://www.tpwd.texas.gov/learning/boater_education/internet_courses.phtml

Boaters with the online course certificate may receive a discounted rate from their boating insurance provider.

 “You never think it’s going to happen to you or anybody you care for,” says Jessica Montez, who lost a friend to drowning.