Objective To describe the association between public rescue tube (PRT) flotation devices and fatal rescuer drownings in Kauai, Hawaii.
Methods We reviewed Hawaii death certificate data from 1993 to 2017, sometimes supplemented with autopsy and emergency medical service reports, to identify fatal rescuer drownings. Incidents were analysed in relation to the initial 2008 deployment of PRT.
Results Over the 25-year period, only 13% (228) of the 1750 identified drownings occurred in Kauai, but nearly half (46%, or 13) of the 28 rescuer deaths occurred there. However, only 1 of the 13 rescuer deaths in Kauai occurred after the 2008 deployment of PRT. The state-wide proportion of rescuer deaths in Kauai decreased significantly from 60% (12 of 20) from 1993 to 2007 to 13% (1 of 8) from 2008 to 2017. There were no apparent changes in the proportions of rescuer drownings in the other three counties of the state, where PRTs were essentially non-existent.
Conclusion Despite valid concerns, we found no fatal rescuer drownings related to PRT use after their 2008 introduction in the county of Kauai. Instead, we observed a reduction in the number of rescuer drownings, and in their proportion of total drownings in association with the deployment of PRT. The findings of this study have the potential to directly impact ocean and other open water environment-related fatal drowning prevention policy and practice.
- public health
Data availability statement
All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.
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Contributors Study concept and design: DJG, ACB. Acquisition of data: DJG. Drafting of the manuscript: DG, BV. Critical revision of the manuscript: all authors. Guarantor: BV. Final approval of the manuscript: all authors.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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