Buoyancy aids are not life jackets and should not be used as personal flotation devices, the proprietor of a water sports center said on Thursday after two people the previous day drowned when their raft overturned on Lotus Pond in Kaohsiung’s Zuoying District (左營).
The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office said that instructor Tsai Mao-yao (蔡茂耀) and a boy surnamed Wang (王), who Tsai was training, died in the incident.
A preliminary investigation showed that Tsai was not wearing a life jacket, while Wang was wearing a buoyancy vest, the office told local media.
Photo: Hsu Li-chuan, Taipei Times
Lotus Pond Water Sports Center chief executive officer Chu Wen-hsiang (朱文祥) said that inappropriate use of a buoyancy aid could have contributed to the drowning.
Many buoyancy aids are designed as a light vest to offer kayakers or rowers ease of movement and some support should their vessel capsize, he said.
Although the vests provide some flotation to help swimmers, they are not intended as a life-saving device, he said.
Buoyancy aids not are designed to generate positive buoyancy, meaning that a person would sink if they stopped swimming, with the additional risk that their head could be submerged even if the vest helped them stay partially afloat, he said.
According to European Standards, a buoyancy device can only be considered a life jacket if it has a load-bearing capacity of 100 newtons, while a life jacket is only suitable for an unconscious person at 150 newtons. A device with a load-bearing capacity of 50 newtons is a buoyancy aid.
As a result, buoyancy vests are rarely used outside of professional water sports, which are governed by different safety regulations, he said.
In Taiwan, only dragon boat rowing festivals in Taipei and Kaohsiung require rowers to wear personal flotation devices, he said, adding that Wang was reportedly wearing a light-duty buoyancy vest used by surfers.
Life jackets can often be distinguished from buoyancy vests as they have crotch straps, which are only utilized due to their greater weight, he said.
In addition, advanced devices have buckles and straps for the chest that help keep the user’s head above the water and make sure the life jacket would not come off when pulled during a rescue attempt, he added.
People should ensure their life jacket has an appropriate European Standards rating, which changes with the body weight of the intended user, he said.
Jackets made by brand names with good reputations that make use of clear technical labeling and an insurance policy are also important issues to consider before making a purchase, he said.
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