Carson woman who lost husband asks for PFD changes

DeeDee Petrilena asked legislators on Monday to make changes in boating safety laws she says could have saved her husband's life.

The Carson City resident said she, her husband, Vince, and friends were vacationing at Lake Mead when he drowned in May. He was swimming when the boat started to drift away in a slight breeze. He tried to swim back to the boat, but was unable to catch it.

"When he looked up, I could seen the panic in his face, and I realized he was in trouble," she said. "He began to swim harder toward the boat, not making any headway."

At that point, she realized there was no personal floatation device on deck to throw to him. By the time she was able to turn the 65-foot rented houseboat around, he was struggling to stay afloat. Others on board found a life jacket in a cabinet inside the houseboat and threw it, but Petrilena said the wind blew it away from him.

A friend jumped in with a float cushion and started swimming toward Vince, but he disappeared beneath the water before she could get there. After 10 months and three searches, his body hasn't been recovered.

Petrilena has asked Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, to seek legislation toughening requirements for floatation and life-saving devices on boats.

"I truly believe that if a Type IV flotation ring with a throwing line attached had been prominently displayed, my husband's accident would have been averted altogether," she said.

Parnell and Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, told the Assembly Natural Resources Committee AB112 would make two significant changes. First, every boat would have personal floatation devices and throwable floats "readily available" for use, not put away in a cabinet inside the board or locked away.

In addition, throwable devices would have a throwing line attached so that, if the wind blew it away, it could be pulled in and thrown again.

Members of the committee headed by Jerry Claborn, D-Las Vegas, indicated strong support for the measure. Parnell said she would work on a couple of amendments suggested during the discussion to improve the bill and bring them back to the committee.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or at 687-8750.

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