WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Mark Nayman feels lucky to be alive after he was struck by a boat while diving for shellfish off the coast of Warwick last month.
Nayman was displaying the proper dive flags, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), and was in about 6 feet of water when he was hit.
“All of a sudden I hear an outboard motor,” Nayman recalled. “I’m like, ‘dang that guy’s close!'”
That’s when Nayman said he surfaced for a better look.
“The guy’s like 30 feet away coming at [me], you know, he’s cruising, and I’m just like, ‘I’m dead,'” he said.
Mark’s wife, Laurie, was on board their boat when she heard Mark get hit.
“I heard ‘tha-thunk tha-thunk’ and I knew it was Mark,” Laurie said, fighting back tears. “I went to the bow of the boat where the hose was and I pulled on this hose, and there’s no resistance and I couldn’t find him.”
Eventually Mark resurfaced, but he didn’t answer Laurie’s calls.
“I didn’t know if he was alive or not and then I saw him move his leg,” she said. “And then a second kick and all this blood – it was out in the water, so much blood I couldn’t believe how much blood there was.”
Mark was rushed to the hospital where he was treated for a fractured skull, lacerations to his upper body and a brain bleed. He said he’s still in pain and his brain feels foggy.
He thinks it will take several months to recover and he isn’t able to work throughout the busy summer season as a shell fisherman. He also isn’t sure if he’ll be in a hurry to return to the water.
“It’s going to take a while for that one to go away,” he said. “Really, I saw death.”
Lt. Michael Schipritt, boating safety coordinator with the DEM’s Environmental Police, said they’ve seen a huge uptick in the number of boats on the water this summer, and the number of accidents has increased too.
“I believe this year we’re already above 20 reportable boat accidents,” he said. “Usually if we get 25 or 30 throughout the entire year, that’s a busy year for us.”
Schipritt said there are a lot of new boaters on the bay, and unlike with driving a car, not all of them need a license.
“If you were born after 1986, you’re required to take a boating safety course and have a boating safety card,” he said. “If you’re born prior to 1986 you don’t need one to drive a boat, you just need one to drive a jet ski.”
The course to obtain a boating safety card can be taken through a private instructor or through materials from the DEM.
“We hope everyone takes the course to get one regardless of their age, but by law it’s not required,” he said.
Many boating safety regulations have been decriminalized, meaning most incidents result in citations, violations or fines that would be heard by the traffic tribunal.
In Nayman’s case, Environmental Police cited Philip McAndrew, 52, of East Greenwich, for operating a motorboat within 50 feet of dive flag, failing to avoid a collision, expired visual distress and improper lookout. Schipritt said none of those charges are criminal.
“In this case it just didn’t meet the standard,” he said.
WPRI 12 left a message for McAndrew but did not heard back.
Mark and Laurie hope by telling their story they’ll remind people about the importance of safety when enjoying the water.
“Pay attention on the water is the number on thing,” Mark said. “If you’re driving a boat, drive a boat.”