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Can a Boat Propeller Kill You

Can a Boat Propeller Kill You

Yes, a boat propeller can definitely kill you. Boat propellers spinning at high speeds are extremely dangerous and can inflict severe, life-threatening injuries. This hazard causes hundreds of serious accidents and fatalities each year.

High Profile Propeller Accidents

Some severe propeller accidents have gained media attention over the years. A few examples:

2003Football coach Ray ZookFoot severely injured by propeller while water skiing
2009Caitlin Beadles, age 15Justin Bieber’s ex-girlfriend, legs severely cut by propeller
2011Dr. Stephen Keller, age 67Fell from rental boat on Lake Tahoe
2012Coast Guard officer Terrell Horne IIIKilled by propeller after boat rammed his vessel
2019Carter Viss, age 25Marine biologist hit while diving in Florida

These incidents show that propeller accidents can happen to anyone. Staying safe around spinning props when boating is extremely important.

How Boat Propellers Cause Injuries

  • Propellers have 2 or 3 sharp metal blades that spin at very high rpms, often over 1000 rpm on smaller motors and up to 5000 rpm on large motors.
  • At these speeds, the propeller blades can rapidly inflict dozens of impacts in the blink of an eye.
  • The force of a spinning propeller can easily cut through flesh, break bones, and damage internal organs.

Types of Propeller Injuries

  • Deep lacerations
  • Amputations
  • Fractures
  • Blunt force trauma
  • Internal bleeding

Who is Most At Risk From Propellers?

Some activities put you at much higher risk of propeller strike. Groups with the highest chance of being hit by a propeller include:

  • People falling overboard
  • Swimmers near boats
  • Water skiers or tubers being towed
  • Scuba divers surfacing
  • People on swim platforms or boarding ladders

Children are especially vulnerable due to their size, lack of awareness, and unpredictable behavior.

When Propeller Accidents Happen

While propellers pose a risk anytime they are spinning, some situations are more prone to accidents:

  • When people fall overboard and under power boats
  • When boats turn sharply and eject passengers
  • With crowded conditions and people not properly seated
  • During water sports like tubing or water skiing
  • Around docks, boat launches, and congested areas

Even at idle speeds or neutral, propellers can still be very dangerous. Stay clear anytime the engine is on.

Preventing Propeller Injuries and Death

  • Wear an engine cut-off switch lanyard
  • Install propeller guards
  • Keep people away from swim platforms and boarding ladders when underway
  • Never start the engine with people in the water
  • Turn off the engine when people are boarding
  • Prohibit passengers riding on seat backs, gunwales, or bow
  • Assign a passenger to keep watch around propeller area
  • Avoid alcohol use while boating
  • Take a safe boating course

With proper precautions, propeller accidents can be avoided. But ultimately the boat operator is responsible for preventing injuries and fatalities. Be vigilant and keep people away from spinning propellers!


Boat propellers spinning at high speeds are responsible for many gruesome injuries and deaths each year. But most accidents can be avoided by following basic propeller safety rules. Be especially cautious with children onboard. Ultimately, vigilant boat operators committed to safe practices are key to preventing propeller fatalities. Stay clear of spinning props and have an amazing time out on the water!

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Steve Momot

Steve is an accomplished professional photographer and marketer who specializes in the Fishing, Yacht, and Boating industry. With a strong presence as an influencer and marketing expert in the Marine Industry, he has made a significant impact in the field. Additionally, Steve is the original creator and co-founder of Sportfishtrader. Prior to his career as a marine photographer, he gained extensive experience as a licensed boat and car dealer in South Florida.

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