Editorial: Require liability insurance for boats

You can’t legally operate a motor vehicle without liability insurance. The same should apply to a powered boat.

During the August long weekend in 2015, Brentwood Bay was crowded with boats leaving Tod Inlet as the fireworks ended at Butchart Gardens, when Michael Gettle crashed his boat into the boat owned by Anne and Earl Henderson. They had been watching the fireworks with their son, Brent, a 32-year veteran of the RCMP. The collision left all three Hendersons with serious injuries from which they are still recovering.

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Gettle was convicted in B.C. Supreme Court last week of three counts of dangerous operation of a motor vessel causing bodily harm. He will be sentenced in the next few months.

No matter what sentence is handed down, it will not resolve things for the Hendersons. Their boat was a writeoff, and they have spent $30,000 to replace it. They also spent $7,000 on lifejackets, paddles, fire extinguishers and safety equipment, as well as on extra medical, physiotherapy and psychology appointments.

Gettle carried no liability insurance — federal regulations, which govern the operation of motor vessels, do not require it.

Those who own boats might be reluctant to add insurance premiums to the cost of owning and operating their vessels, but liability insurance not only compensates those injured in a boating incident, but can protect the owner from financial catastrophe.

The lack of a requirement for mandatory liability insurance for motor vessels is a serious deficiency that should be rectified. As the Henderson case proves, the consequences of a boating mishap can be serious and expensive.

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