New bill renews debate about boat propeller protection

New bill renews debate about boat propeller protection
Published: Feb. 16, 2016 at 11:17 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2016 at 12:17 AM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Propeller guard (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Propeller guard (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A recent boating tragedy in Kailua has reignited calls for stricter rules.

Well-known waterman Sri Shim died last month after he was run over by a boat while diving with his hanai son.

A new bill would require recreational vessels to have a propeller guard to cover the blades.

Paddler Luke Evslin, 31, still bears the scars from a propeller strike five years ago. The blades of an escort boat sliced open his back during a crew change for the Molokai Hoe.

"I thought I had been cut in half," said Evslin. "I reached around and put my hand in my back and there was nothing really there."

The Kauai resident believes a propeller guard would have significantly reduced the severity of his injuries.

House Bill 2024 would require the device to be installed on all motorized recreational vessels operating within 500 meters of the shoreline.

Currently, only catamarans in Waikiki need to have them because they go all they way up to the beach.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources isn't taking a position on the measure.

"It's hard to say whether it's going to be an effective tool or not. It could very well prevent a prop strike. It could do that, but then usually at that time, you've already been hit by the front of the boat, the hull," said Ed Underwood, administrator the DLNR's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

Since 2011, there have been five propeller strikes in Hawaii involving recreational vessels, including three fatalities. Other deaths and injuries have been caused by commercial boats.

Opponents of the measure insist that propeller guards are unnecessary and negatively impact a boat's performance.

"I've never crashed into a turtle or a diver or anything," said fisherman Mike Hennessy. "I think it's more about boaters going to those classes and learning about where they need to be and where they shouldn't be and being responsible."

But supporters of the devices disagree.

"We know it would save lives," said Evslin. "People who have them on boats say that the boats run fine. It doesn't affect maneuverability or efficiency."

A House committee will hold a hearing on HB2024 on Wednesday.

Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.