George Booth’s leg was nearly amputated when it was stuck by a boat propeller. Video / Maritime NZ
George Booth lay on the boat floor, his leg bound in a makeshift tourniquet and his mind drifting towards unconsciousness due to heavy blood loss and severe shock.
The pain was beginning to kick in and so was the panic. He focused on their breathing and tried to remain calm as his friends applied pressure to his wounds.
The 21-year-old had been enjoying a day’s fishing with a couple of mates off the Northland coastline on January 17, 2021 when their summer adventure turned into a nightmare.
“We’d had quite a big night before so we probably weren’t within the best form. We had a few beers and went out for a fish off Sail Rock. ”
As the 4. 5m inflatable vessel cut through the water it hit a “rogue wave” at speed near Mangawhai Heads. The skipper lost control and was thrown from the controls on to the particular deck. Booth was thrown over the side, run over by the boat and struck by the propeller, which sliced their right leg to the particular bone.
His jumper became tangled in the propeller, dragging him beneath the surface. He wriggled free of the tangled clothing and came up for air, screaming at the skipper in order to kill the engine, prior to swimming to the side of the boat and being pulled back upon board by his two friends.
The particular then Massey University of Wellington industrial design student was in shock plus unaware of the extent associated with his injuries until he noticed the deep cut and ripped muscle tissue around his calf, hamstring and quad.
“It was pretty much meat flaps that had been torn to bits by the motor. There was lots of blood. It was pretty full on. ”
His friends were medical students. They immediately applied pressure to the grisly wound with a blanket and tied a piece of rope tightly around the top of his leg.
The boat’s radio had been broken during the impact and the vessel’s distress beacon had a flat battery. But someone managed to get cellphone reception and called 111 for help.
They were drifting about 5km out to sea with land barely visible on the horizon.
“That was whenever the pain and a little bit of panic started to set in.
“It was just me and the two boys in a boat in the middle of the ocean with a broken motor and my leg bleeding out.
“The only way I could keep myself together was to concentrate on my breathing. I knew if I could keep the heart rate down it would give me the best chance of getting through. ”
Booth closed his eyes, felt the “warm rush” and began to drift off.
“My mate began slapping my face and yelling, ‘Wake up, wake up’. I clicked that if I don’t stay awake there’s a good chance I’ll never wake up again. ”
It was about 20 minutes before a nearby yacht responded to the particular mayday call, followed by a Mangawhai Surf Live Saving team and the Northland Rescue Helicopter.
Those on board the particular yacht tied the inflatable alongside and kept it steady in the choppy sea while paramedics assessed Booth’s injuries and provided pain relief.
Volunteer surf lifeguard Mike Ardern would later tell the Northern Advocate the cut was so deep it had nearly amputated Booth’s leg.
“When I saw the particular cut on his calf muscle I thought he’d probably need 30 or 40 stitches. But then we lifted the blanket upward and it was very bad. He’d lost a lot of blood. ”
Medical personnel applied a proper tourniquet and gave him oxygen and an IV.
Booth remembers the moment he heard the rescue chopper approaching.
“That was the point I knew I has been going to make this through. In my mind I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m dying upon this boat’. It was the biggest sense of relief. ”
Booth was winched aboard the particular heicopter and flown to Whangārei Hospital where this individual underwent a blood transfusion. He’d lost nearly 2. 5 litres of blood.
Staff then gave him a sobering report on the extent of his injuries.
“They said, ‘There’s a good chance we’ll have to amputate your leg’. That was the pretty tough pill in order to swallow but at the same time I had been stoked that I’d made it through. ”
Booth was transferred to Middlemore Hospital simply by ambulance the next day where he endured multiple surgeries to repair severe muscle and nerve damage.
Medical staff managed to save their leg but told your pet he’d been within minutes of death.
He credits his survival towards the quick thinking associated with his mate Jamie Kennelly, the dedication of his rescuers as well as the skilled medical staff who worked on his injuries.
Without the efforts of the not-for-profit surf lifesaving club and rescue helicopter service, both of which rely on donations, “I wouldn’t be here”.
Booth has undergone months of intensive rehabilitation plus had to relearn how to walk. He still suffers from painful pins and needles but is now able to run and play sport again.
Booth believes a kill switch on the vessel – a lanyard system that clips to the particular driver and automatically cuts the engine if they are tossed from the controls – could have prevented him from suffering life-threatening injuries that day.
He shared his story as a warning to other boaties heading out on the water this summer about how quickly things can go wrong.
“I’m incredibly lucky. There are all these certain pieces that fell into place to get me here.
“Given I had been lucky to get out of that hectic situation, it’s the least I can do to get the particular message out there.
“You can’t mess around on board boats and you have to be wary of what can go wrong and exactly how quickly it can wrong.
“You’re on the water, you’re incredibly isolated from first responders plus hospitals, and if you don’t take the right precautions you can be in big trouble. ”
Ocean going NZ principal adviser upon recreational craft Matt Wood said 22 people died in recreational boating accidents in 2021 – well up on the 10-year average of 17.
Most deaths occurred during holiday periods in summer and spring, and most were avoidable.
Wooden said the message in order to boaties heading out these holidays was “have fun but come home safe”.
Maritime NZ asked boaties to become prepared and “know the particular ways of the water just before they let go of the land”.
Key messages under the boating safety code include:
• Always wear lifejackets. If a person don’t have enough lifejackets, don’t go out.
• Carry in least two water-proof forms of communication to call for help. Check they are usually working properly and know how to use them.
• Check the latest marine weather forecast. If in doubt, don’t go out.
• Avoid alcohol.
• Skipper responsibility. This includes having general safe boating knowledge but also specific knowledge about the area you are in and the particular type of activity you are undertaking.
Wood recommended talking to the local Coastguard and harbourmaster with regard to guidance around safety and requirements, and downloading the Marine NZ app .
In 2021, there were 22 deaths (spread across 18 incidents) related to recreational craft
• 20 from the 22 people were male
• The median age was 55 years old
• 11 were not wearing the lifejacket when they entered the particular water.
• 10 of those people had one available to them.
• 17 of the 22 individuals died in spring plus summer.