Make life jackets the law for kids in boats, grieving mother says

CBC reports: Joshua Steinburg, 11, was at his father’s cottage along the St. Lawrence River near Rockport, Ont., last Labour Day weekend when he, his father, his older brother and two other children hopped in a speed boat to get some ice cream and gas, then go for a swim.

On the trip back, the boat hit two large waves in a deep, narrow channel about 100 metres off the south shore of Club Island, and capsized.

Everyone resurfaced except Joshua, who wasn’t wearing a life jacket.

It wasn’t until 49 days later that a dive team finally recovered his body.

There is no federal law in Canada forcing children to wear life jackets, and now Joshua’s mother, Cara McNulty, is trying to change that.

She was shopping in Ottawa on Sept. 1, 2018, when she got the call about what happened, she told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning on Monday.

Joshua Steinburg. (Diamondview Photography/Supplied by Cara McNulty)

‘I just knew’

“Obviously we dropped everything and just took off. At the time I didn’t know the gravity of the situation. I knew there was an accident,” she said.

“It was on the drive there that I found out … that there were helicopters searching for Josh. They hadn’t found him. There was that moment of just knowing. I just knew, even though you tell yourself all kinds of excuses … deep down I just knew.”

Because no one had seen Joshua come up for air, even though other boaters were nearby and responded within a few minutes, officials believe he was likely unconscious when he hit the water.

Soon, the response shifted from a search to a recovery, and Ontario Provincial Police divers were dispatched. They searched for about a week, McNulty said.

But it didn’t end there.

Volunteer search lasted weeks

“That’s when we had divers come from all over. They came from Florida, from New York, from Toronto, the GTA, from Quebec City, Gatineau, Ottawa, Brockville — they came and they were there, dedicated, devoted,” she said.

For weeks and weeks, another boat owner took the family out on the water to search for Josh with binoculars.

“Every day you get hopeful because you get closer. I think what I learned, and what people don’t understand, is that underneath the surface of that water is a completely different world,” McNulty said.

Eventually, cadaver dogs helped them further narrow the search area. A sonar team from the U.S. came in with some sophisticated technology, and Joshua’s body was finally found.

‘It’s time now to change this’

Now McNulty has started a campaign to raise awareness about the fact that while federal law stipulates watercraft must carry life jackets for everyone onboard, there’s no law saying they have to be worn — even by children.

“A lot of people think that’s the law, but it is not. And for children’s safety, this is absolutely fundamental,” she said.

“We know the No. 1 reason why people die in boating accidents over the age of four is not wearing a life jacket. We know it. It’s been known for a long time. The Red Cross, the Lifesaving Society of Canada have been advocating for this for years. It’s time. It’s time now to change this.”

A petition addressed to Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, started three weeks ago, had garnered more than 2,400 signatures by Monday morning.


Source: CBC.CA

3 Replies to “Make life jackets the law for kids in boats, grieving mother says”

  1. Man, I am definitely seeing red here! We are all aware, federal law stipulates watercraft must carry life jackets for everyone onboard so….USE A LITTLE COMMON SENSE PEOPLE !! Only a fool would not wear a life jacket when out on the water in any type of watercraft!

    The boys father should have known better. Besides, the way in which this watercraft was being operated is indicative he was not cognizant of his surroundings. This loss of life was totally preventable.

    Changing laws may be the moral thing to do in this instance but you can never legislate stupidity.

    It’s the same with seat belts and drunk driving. There is always someone, somewhere rolling the dice, believing nothing will come of their little brain cramp until a loved one is seriously injured or killed. Now Joshua’s father will forever live with the asinine consequences of his actions.


    Unfortunately, laws and warnings will fall on deaf ears as it usually does.

  2. I gotta say one more thing in regards to this terrible incident and in Joshua’s defence!

    People constantly complain, left, right and centre concerning the over abundance of Federal laws, regulations and rules controlling just about everything in our lives. On the other hand, it seems citizens can’t get their fill and want more legislation shoved down their throats to ease their frustration when disaster strikes

    Can people not use simple logic rather than asking to be treated like infants? The government should not be your babysitter. Whining and crying may soothe your soul but,

  3. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes…..but I did!

    It happened when my wife Sharon and I were on our monthly fishing excursion to Port Dover Ontario on July 2, 2019. The day was sunny and warm and after a quick breakfast at a local eatery, we headed down to the pier. The water levels everywhere we exceedingly high, right up to dock level. Average Lake Erie temperature this time of year in the 60 degree range.

    Using common sense, we tied on our trusty “Pickerel Rigs” as per the locals. This gave us an excellent opportunity to check out the watercraft action coming out of the marina up river. Area resident boaters were eager to have the opportunity to experience what Mother Nature has given them. Unfortunately most all ignored what she can take away, your life and that of a family member.

    Dozens of boats of every description plied the waters, from large watercraft, some of which topped 20 to 22 ft or more, to small 12 ft. aluminum boats with the odd sailing vessel among the lot.

    What was most noticeable, except for four kayakers and the operator of a small inflatable dingy, absolute NONE were wearing their life jackets.

    I yelled out to these foolish nincompoops where their life jackets were and they sarcastically replied, “right there” and pointed to the inside of their boat. In fact one larger boat had four teenage girls laying on their stomachs hanging over the bow of the boat without any life jackets. It was obvious to my wife and I, tempting fate was a priority on this day.

    As the boats made their way our to Lake Erie, it wasn’t too long before the weather took a turn for the worse. Black ominous clouds began to roll in. Soon after, as the the winds picked up, the heavens poured out a deluge of liquid fury. Everyone was suddenly at the mercy of Mother Nature.


    The Grim Reaper as you see, was smiling in anticipation of his next victim! He certainly is counting on everyone’s asinine qualities.

    Fortunately, there were no fatalities on this day. They were extremely lucky this time and there will be a next time!

    Their local Funeral Director has been busy constructing several beautiful oak coffins as he himself is waiting for their arrival.

    So to all these Ladies and Gentlemen, please R.S.V.P as soon as possible. Funeral Service availability is becoming overly crowded as it has taken a “sudden death” turn due to recent incidents involving malcontents not wearing their life jackets and loosing their lives from a lack of common sense and an increase of irrational behavior.

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