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Emily Fedorko,16, killed by boat propeller while tubing: A warning for boaters

Emily Fedorko, a 16-year-old teen from Connecticut, was killed after a day on the water took a tragic turn. The Greenwich High School student was tubing with three of her friends Wednesday when two of them fell off of a tube that was being pulled by the boat. Making a go around to pick up the girls from the water, the boat made too sharp of a turn, too quickly, and Fedorko became mangled in the propeller.

Writes Reuters news service via MSN News: “The girl, Emily Fedorko of Greenwich, Connecticut, had been tubing with three friends aged 15 and 16 when the incident happened, Greenwich Police Lieutenant Kraig Gray said. The incident occurred when Fedorko and a second girl, who has not been identified, fell out of the tube that was being pulled behind a 21-foot boat with an outboard motor.”

Gray said the second girl also sustained a soft tissue injury to her leg but that it was not life threatening.

“The boat operator made a turn to pick up the tubers when the boat collided with the two girls in the water, who were injured by the propeller,” Gray said. “They immediately lifted them aboard the boat and transported them to the Old Greenwich Yacht Club dock.”

Fedorko, a popular honors student, was with three teen friends, none of which were over the age of 16. Police said alcohol or drugs were not a factor; the boat was searched as well and no alcohol or illegal substances were found.

The calamity appears to be a result of inexperience on the water. The 21-foot Wahoo speedboat, owned by the father of one of the girls, was turned over to the teens for their afternoon day in the sun.

“At some point, with some of the turning maneuvers that took place with the boat and the tubes, the vessel slowed or stopped. The girls’ tube continued forward and they became entangled in the propeller,” Gray said.

The state of Conn. allows boat operators of anyone 16-years of age and older (13 and older for certain watercrafts), as long as they have a boating certificate. According to Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, a “Safe Boating Certificate will allow an individual to operate any recreational vessel registered in Connecticut except a personal watercraft (‘Jet Ski’ type vessel) on Connecticut’s waters.” A 10-hour basic boating course must be taken and passed.

Investigators stressed that the teen driver of the boat did have a license to operate the watercraft. Still, the incident highlights the dangers in towing someone behind a boat, whether they are on a tube, waterskis or any similar device.

Norwalk’s Daily Voice lists 13 precautions that should be exercised when pulling someone behind a boat – including the need for a “spotter” and the understanding that the propeller still may spin after the boat is stopped or turned off.

Sabrina Thurber was one of the teens on the boat with Fedorko. Her father, Gordon, told the New York Times that his 15-year-old teen was not injured, but that she pulled Emily from the water. She had a deep laceration across her torso.

“Sabrina had to pull her friend’s dead body out of the water,” he said. “This would’ve been tough for a combat soldier, you know? These are teenage girls. I am just on my knees, thanking God, that she didn’t die.”

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