Rule 1 / Case 5

Always Wear Your PFD (Lifejacket)


Lake Springfield

Michael Anthony Williams and Michael Paul McHaffie March 28th, 2010 - Lake Springfield, Missouri

On a cool day in late March, Michael Anthony Williams, 41, and Michael Paul McHaffie, 34, were fishing from a bright yellow canoe when it capsized on Lake Springfield less than 100 yards from shore, in waist-deep 45-50F water. Neither man was wearing a PFD. The water was described as calm.

McHaffie was able to make it to back to shore, but when he turned around, he saw Williams about 40 yards away, floating face down in the water. He then found someone with a cell phone who called 911. Firefighters made it to the scene about 3 minutes after getting the call.

When they arrived and spotted Williams, they bravely put on life jackets, waded out through the 45 to 50 degree water without the protection of wetsuits or drysuits, and pulled him back to shore. By that point, he had no pulse, wasn’t breathing, and had been in the water for about ten minutes. The firefighters began CPR, and transported Williams to CoxSouth Hospital by ambulance, where efforts to revive him continued without success. Case Note:

Retrieving the canoe

Cold water doesn’t have to be freezing cold or over your head to kill you. Most people will experience maximum-intensity cold shock at water temperatures between 50-60F. Given that the water was only waist deep, it's possible that the sudden shock of immersion caused a fatal spike in William's blood pressure. It's equally possible that he gasped when his head was underwater. As noted in the section on cold shock, cold water immersion is immediately life-threatening.


Major Contributing Factors

  • No PFD (Lifejacket)

  • Not Dressed For Water Temperature

  • Unable To Recover From Capsize

  • Unaware of Hazards

  • Paddling Solo