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Kali's Law requires vessel operators to wear kill switch lanyard

Posted at 12:17 PM, Sep 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-02 14:16:40-04

ARANSAS PASS, Texas — A new law requires boat operators to wear an ignition safety switch or a kill switch lanyard starting Sept. 1, 2019.

This new law is rooted right here in the Coastal Bend. Kali Gorzell was a 16 year old girl who died in 2012 in Aransas Pass.

"The operator of the boat wasn't wearing a kill switch and he was thrown from the helm and passengers were thrown out of the boat," Game Warden Lerrin Johnson says. "She was hit by the propeller of the boat and killed."

Kali's family became advocates for boat safety and pushed for some new legislation.

Operators of vessels that are 26 ft. in length or less are now required to use a kill switch. The law states that if someone is going more than headway speed, they need to have that kill switch attached to their person, clothing or lifejacket.

"What they do is they stop the vessel if anyone or if the operator falls over so you don't have runaway boats that turn around and run over people in the water or crash into docks and things like that." Johnson says.

There was another deadly incident over a week ago that the game warden says may have been prevented with the use of a kill switch..

"We believe he was thrown out of his boat and the boat continued to go on without him, it did not run him over but he could not get back to his vessel and unfortunately, he drowned."

"Initially in the beginning we are probably going to be doing a lot of education to boaters saying, hey this new law is in affect, make sure you are doing this, but at some point we will start writing citations for these violations because it is a violation of the law."

This violation is a Class C misdemeanor with a fine up to $200.

Game Warden want to remind people not to drive boats while intoxicated. Boaters are required to have a life jacket for each person on board and kids under 13 have to wear life jackets at all times while on the water.