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Father of drowned fisherman urges safety for others

Don’t set foot on a fishing boat without a knife, and make sure it’s tethered to you. The father of a drowned conch fisherman wants others to hear this message, in the hopes that it will help prevent tragedies like the one his family experienced last summer.

The Marthas Vineyard Times recently interviewed John Gurney, whose son Luke drowned after getting caught in a trawl line last June. Gurney’s new mission is to spread a simple message he thinks could save lives: make sure you have a tethered knife on you at all times, and be prepared to use it during an emergency. He recently spoke to local commercial fishermen at a safety training event and hopes to reach both commercial and recreational fishermen.

Many fishermen carry knives, but that isn’t always enough, according to Gurney. The knife is no good to you if you use it for something else and forget to put it back in your pocket, or if you lose it during an accident. One solution: tether it to your clothing with heavy fishing line, making sure the line is long enough that you can use the knife to cut yourself free if any part of your body gets entangled in gear.

Gurney also encourages fisherman to practice responding to entanglements, so they know what to do if the worst happens. Speaking to The Marthas Vineyard Times, he compared it to getting into a survival suit: you need to be able to do it quickly, because an accident can turn deadly in a matter of seconds. And just as you practice donning a survival suit, you should practice cutting yourself out if you get entangled in your gear.

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