Accident Database

Report ID# 329

  • PFD Fell Off
  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • Inadequate Equipment
  • Inexperience
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description


Schuylkill River near Philadelphia, PA: August 26, 1990


A father and his 4-year-old daughter disappeared beneath the murky waters of the Schuylkill on the evening of August 26, 1990. Their rented canoe, crammed with six members of their family, flipped in a motorboat wake, police said.

Fire company divers vainly searched until midnight for the two, who are presumed drowned.  The searchers planned to resume today.  The four survivors safely swam to shore, said police.

Police said the six family members were peacefully paddling in the aluminum canoe off Flat Rock Park in Lower Merion.  A motorboat cruising the gently flowing river passed the canoe.  The boat's wake toppled the low-riding canoe, police said, spilling its occupants into the river. They capsized about 30 feet from the riverbank, where the water is between eight and 10 feet deep.  The 45-year-old man and his daughter went under and never reappeared. The little girl was wearing a life jacket that slipped off when she went into the water, police said. It wasn't known whether the man could swim.  Police said he wasn't wearing a life jacket.


Source:  Philadelphia Daily News

ANALYSIS: Overloading and a lack of PFD's lead to this tragedy. Overloaded canoes become more unstable, but canoeists should always be ready to get wet, whether flipped by moterboat wakes, waves, or currents. But had the victims been wearing properly-fitted life preservers, they undoubtedly would have survived. Kids must be fitted correctly, and instructed to keep the vest snug.

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