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I don’t want to keep mentioning that recent fatal accident at Bair’s Lodge in the Bahamas, but new facts just keep emerging. The accident, you’ll recall, occurred when all three occupants of a Bair’s Lodge skiff (two clients and the guide) were thrown into the water, at which point the boat circled back on the occupants and may have struck one of the anglers and killed him. I say may because it has not been determined that the cause of death was impact by the skiff or the motor’s propeller. I’m indebted to Bair’s Lodge owner Santiago G. Seeber for this clarification. He says the angler may well have been killed by impact with the bottom rather than with the boat. He said the final word on that will have to wait until the Bahamian police have released their final report.

An even more important clarification needs to be made about legal action being taken against Bair’s Lodge by the family of the victim. Seeber says he has not been notified of any legal action as a result of the accident, and he asked me to make that clear. I do that herewith and offer my apology for not being more careful to confirm what I was told. For sure, the accident is going to be ruled an accident, Seeber says, and he is sure his people at the lodge behaved properly before and after the event.

Indeed, Seeber’s company, Nervous Waters, is well regarded throughout the industry. It owns seven lodges, including three sea-run trout lodges on the Rio Grande River in Argentina. An accident like this could have occurred at any lodge anywhere in the world where small skiffs are used. The important thing, as I said last month, is to take a page from the aviation industry and learn from this crash. In other words: What should lodges do to prevent a recurrence?

Last month, I indicated I was going to test a new radio-controlled device that a skiff captain and one client can clip to their waists in the morning. If the client falls out of the boat, a dash-mounted receiver sounds an alarm. If the captain falls out of the boat, the receiver activates a plastic pin that kills the engine instantly. The device is called Autotether, and I am pleased to report that it works brilliantly. If the captain of the Bair’s Lodge skiff mentioned above had had an Autotether clipped to his waist, the client in the accident may have survived.

On my recommendation, Seeber says he is going to have Autotethers installed on all six boats at Bair’s Lodge. I commend him for taking this step, and I encourage other lodge owners to do the same. At a very minimum, in my view, all skiffs that carry persons for hire should be rigged with some kind of kill switch and captains of those skiffs should be required to keep them activated.

Traditional kill switches, of course, use cords that are snapped to the wrist or to a belt loop. If the captain is thrown from the boat, the cord manually pulls a blocking device out of the kill switch. These devices work fine, but the problem is, operators tend to not use them all the time because they have be un-attached and then re-attached with each stop. Autotethers, on the other hand, have to be activated only once in the morning, and they continue to operate all day.

So, how can fishing outfitters be forced to use kill switches? The answer is, they probably can’t be forced to do anything. Angling travel is an international business, and the players in it range from wealthy to penurious. Some are responsible and some are cowboys. And, in fairness, some operate in conditions that don’t make kill switches a big priority. Almost certainly, any effort to make kill switches more widely used is going to have to originate with clients asking about the use of them at the time of booking. On the other hand, responsible agents and outfitters could show some leadership here. Anyone want to do that? I’ll publish what any of you say on the matter.

The fishing outfitters, in my view, who should lead the way here include the following: 1.) All outfitters in the Bahamas because of a long history of irresponsible boat operation on the part of Bahamian guides. 2.) Outfitters in the Amazon, such as Amazon Tours, who use high-powered bass boats that roar upwards of 60 miles an hour through debris-prone waters of varying depths. 3.) Striped bass guides in the Northeast who operate in sometimes choppy and dangerous waters capable of throwing occupants from a skiff. 4.) Bass and flats guides anywhere who move from area to area at high speed. Florida Keys guides with 150-plus motors should take special note!

Angling professionals and clients alike are urged to jump into the fray here and create some momentum for change. The best way to do that is to send a comment on the matter of any length, providing your own thoughts about kill switches and who should (or should not) be required to use them. I’ll start a Reader Forum on our web site if enough comments are received. Send them to: doncausey@

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