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Valley family pushing for water safety regulations

Boating boat safety
Posted at 4:53 PM, Oct 27, 2021

PHOENIX — Arizona waters are becoming increasingly dangerous.

Accidents have more than doubled since 2016.

Last year, the U.S. Coast Guard reports there were 162 boating accidents in Arizona that resulted in 10 deaths. Arizona is one of only five states that do not require the operator of a watercraft to take a safety course before taking the controls.

“One way we can help prevent some of these accidents is boater education," said Todd Heilesen.

His wife, Wendy, and their daughters survived a near-death experience on Lake Pleasant in 2017.

The rider of a jet ski landed on top of their daughters while they were riding in an innertube tethered to Heilesen's boat. Both girls were hurt, but ultimately survived.

"This happened to us, we don’t want it to happen to us again or to anyone else,” he said.

The Heilesen’s wrote a letter to the legislature asking lawmakers to require, at the very least, watercraft operators complete a safety course.

State Representative Mitzi Epstein (D), Ahwatukee District 18, read the letter.

On Wednesday, Epstein met with the Heilesens and other stakeholders to see what could be done to make it safer on Arizona's waterways.

“I believe this is the right thing to do,” Epstein said. “Folks have to understand if there are three people on the lake that’s fine. But now we have density on the lakes and therefore we need some rules of the road, rules of the lake.”

Representatives from the boating industry also attended the meeting. The industry said it supports the effort to make Arizona’s waterways safer.

Epstein said lawmakers will consider boat safety legislation during the 2022 session.