Gairloch Tragedy – What’s the Difference between a Buoyancy Vest and a Life Jacket?

Gairloch Tragedy – What’s the Difference between a Buoyancy Vest and a Life Jacket?

The difference is simply that a buoyancy vest (a waistcoat with foam on the inside) will help keep you afloat but only a life jacket will keep your head above water if you fall unconscious.

This critical point of difference was highlighted in a tragedy in Scotland earlier this year when a man and three children died on Loch Gairloch near Ullapool when their Canadian canoe capsized.

Another man and his eight year old daughter managed to swim 500 metres to safety. The men were not wearing life jackets and the children wore only buoyancy vests.

The body of 32 year old Ewen Beaton has never been found but his two small sons aged two and five and a five year old girl (younger daughter of the surviving man) were pulled out of the water but later died in hospital.

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, Grace Mackay (5) was found face down in the water and unconscious but despite being rushed to hospital, she did not survive.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute was quoted as stating that whilst buoyancy vests might be sufficient in certain circumstances such as supervised situations or calm waters, life jackets offer the best chance of survival.

It was a calm day in late summer when this tragedy occurred and the families were having a “magical day” before disaster struck. There was no warning prior to the canoe tipping over. It happened in an instant and two families are now mourning the loss of a husband and three young children. The surviving father, Garry Mackay, recently posted this on Song of the Paddle’s website. It is worth reading as a testimony to the ongoing grief and pain of a father who has lost a child in circumstances which may have had a different outcome if safety had been the priority of the day.

Accidents can happen when we least expect them. Often they are nobody’s fault. Keep yourself safe on the water and click here to read more about the difference when buying a PFD..

Footnote: The ULTRA PFD vest shown in the image is not related to the story or actual vests used in the tragedy.

Editorial contributors: Di Pollard | Fiona Dalzell | Flossie

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