FOLSOM LAKE (CBS13) – Members of a local family could have been seriously injured or killed after an out-of-control jet ski slammed into their boat on Folsom Lake.
Labor Day typically marks the end of boating season for many of us in California. But for one family, a day on the lake turned into a nightmare for one local family.
“This…could have been a life-or-death situation,” said boater Leah Prior.
The Priors were enjoying a summer day on the water when the unthinkable happened. With her husband behind the wheel and their boys sitting in the bow, Prior’s boat was rammed by an out-of-control jet skier. It missed her husband by just inches.
“We could have been killed. My boys could have been killed if my husband did not make a split second decision to try to do something to get out of the way,” she said.
The nose of the ski knocked a gaping hole in the side of the boat, and the boat began taking on water.
“We were really fearful that we were going to sink. There were pieces of boat everywhere,” said Leah.
Officer Ryan Steele has been a lifeguard for State Parks for 18 years. He says he’s seen a number of incidents where jet ski riders jump the wake of boats and end up hitting the boats.
“One of the major causes for a lot of boating accidents is a lot of inexperience or knowledge of how to operate a vessel safely,” said Steele.
Steele says that almost every collision results in at least one injury.
“It’s very rare that we don’t have an injury,” said Steele.
That’s why the State is pushing for more education. Starting January 1 of this year, recreational power boat operators who are 20 and under were required by law to carry a Boater Education Card. The California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways will issue cards to those who pass the state-approved boating safety course online. The cards will be phased in, and by January 1, 2025, all boat drivers will be required to carry a boater card.
“The overall goal is to keep everyone safe on our waterways,” said California Boater Card program analyst Evan Becker.
But there are many exemptions, including for those who rent power boats.
“After looking at our boating statistics in 2016, it shows that only 9-10% of boating accidents involved rental vessels,” said Becker.
The Priors have a message for anyone heading out on the waterways this Labor Day weekend:
“Before you get out and get on a machine you’ve never ridden, make sure you know how to handle it,” said Leah. “He’s lucky he’s alive. We’re lucky to be alive, and we are all here to share that for a reason.”
To apply for the California Boater Card, boaters need to take an online course. There’s a one-time $10 fee and the card is valid for the boater’s lifetime. If you don’t have a boater card by the phased in year required, you are subject to fines from $150-$500.
And be sure to always stock your boat with enough life properly fitting jackets for each passenger.