Stories From The Street: Learning Life Lessons The Hard Way

Several years ago a former Chesterfield Firefighter had moved back to California to be closer to his wife’s family. There was a beautiful lake called Shasta in northern California his family loved to boat on.

One Sunday evening, they launched their boat with plans to spend time after the crowd had already loaded their boats and headed home. They headed to a protected bay away from boat traffic and this firefighter played on a kneeboard while his wife drove the boat and his kids watched.

He did a trick and lost the ski rope and floated in the water waiting for his wife to circle around for him to grab the rope for some more fun. As another boat approached he realized it was heading straight toward him. As he waved his arms to signal he was in the water the boater continued toward him.

He remembers the bow hitting him and shoving him under the hull as he pushed with all his strength to get away from the propeller. The propeller cut through his legs destroying both femurs and his knee caps, and he was severely injured. The boat that hit him turned around and the boater asked, “Hey man, are you okay?” and the firefighter said, “You’ve nearly cut my legs off– go get me some help and a medivac helicopter!”

As the boat sped off, he relied on his EMT training and held pressure on his wounds, trying to keep from bleeding to death in the cold water. His wife and kids drifted up to him and he was surrounded by blood in the water as they waited for help. Another boat came by and they asked them to call for help. That boat sped off.

Little did they know the boater that hit him headed right for the boat ramp and loaded the boat for a quick escape, and never even called for help. The boat operator was drunk and trying to make a getaway before authorities arrived.

They park rangers arrived and it took three of them to load the injured firefighter on a backboard and try to get him in their boat. His injuries were so severe the rangers couldn’t even look at his legs. He had to try to hold his legs together as the boat hit each wave on the ride back to the ramp.

The medivac helicopter arrived and flew him to the hospital where his legs we saved and years of recovery began. To make a long story short, he couldn’t work, all the family savings were depleted and the accident changed their lives forever.

The drunken boater had no insurance on the boat, no home insurance, no assets and no job. There was no way for the firefighter to recover the medical costs, the lost income, the pain and suffering for the rest of his life. Even though the drunken boater was given a sobriety test, which proved his intoxication, he got away with nearly killing someone and destroying the security of an entire family.

Approximately 28% of the drivers on Virginia highways are uninsured or underinsured. About 50% of the boaters are underinsured or uninsured. Now is a good time to talk to your insurance agent and make sure you have proper coverage on your auto insurance for uninsured/underinsured motorists and to do the same for your boat insurance.

It’s just as much your responsibility to make sure you have proper insurance protection, as it is the responsibility of your agent. If you are dealing with a 1-800 number insurance service, do your research before selecting liability limits. Cheap insurance may make sense for the budget, but it can often leave you exposed to high levels of risk. Call your agent and schedule an insurance review. Ask questions and get involved to ensure the security of your family.