Vivien Sanchez / Reporter
Rebecca Chambers, a 24-year-old student at Del Mar College, and her friends grabbed their bikinis and headed to the water on Aug. 24. Just like any ordinary Sunday, they spent the day drinking and letting loose on a boat at the Ski Canals on Padre Island. But before the day was over, Chambers would be badly injured in a boating accident.
“I remember everything. I remember the boat hitting my leg,” the physical therapy student said. “I surfaced, and raised my arm in the air when I saw the boat had already turned around.”
Chambers, who lost her leg after falling overboard, credits the quick reaction of her friends and the Coast Guard with saving her life.
“I remember the feeling of the water running through my leg,” Chambers said. “I lived because of how quickly everyone responded. And I’m just so grateful that I only lost my leg and that I am still living.”
In 2013, Texas was ranked third in deaths involving recreational vessels nationwide, right behind Florida and California. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Allen said the Coast Guard is constantly working on ways to promote boat safety. “What we are doing now is having an educational campaign to notify boaters on what they are required to have on board, and what we recommend they carry on board,” Allen said.
Boaters are required to have a life jacket for each person on board, and anyone 13 or younger must be wearing their life jacket at all times. Also, boaters must have a flare gun, a lifesaver, fire extinguishers, sound-producing devices and navigational lights. Allen said the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a volunteer workforce, puts on classes and also attends major events informing boaters to take the classes or meet with a worker to discuss safety.
According to Corpus Christi Fire Department, there are between 15 and 30 boats at the Ski Canals on an average weekend. “You’re looking at 30 to 50 on a good-weather day,” said Lt. Brittany Moyers, with Fire Station 15. “If passengers are paying attention, and making sure that everyone is seated and not leaning over the boat, we would have a lot less accidents out there,” Moyers said.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the top five primary contributing factors in boating accidents include operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and machinery failure. Most of these accidents could be prevented if the passengers took a little extra time to knowledge their surroundings, area officials said.
Chambers, who said she fell overboard because she was not paying attention when the wake shook the boat she was in, is reminded of this tragedy every day. She said she hopes her accident will help others be safer out on the water. “Just be aware of your surroundings,” Chambers says. “Pay attention of what is going on around you at all times.” Chambers is a reminder to her friends and family about the power of determination and moving forward.
“When I woke up I freaked out,” Chambers said. “I think I freaked out for a couple minutes, then I realized, I have to accept this.” Unfortunately, Chambers was not insured when the accident occurred. She said her friends and family decided to put on a few benefits to raise money for her medical bills and recovery. The next event will be a painting party at 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at Crazy Picasso, 7602 Staples St., and is $30 per person.
“I have not yet been able to thank everyone for their generous donations,” Chambers said. “I not only have the support of friends and family but that of the community.” Chambers is anxious to get her prosthetic and begin working out again. She said the first thing she will do is go for a run. Chambers continues to have a positive attitude despite the challenges ahead. “I have never felt so lucky to be alive,” she said. “I am even grateful for the small things. The wind looks so pretty blowing in the trees.”