What Happens When Someone Falls Overboard

What happens when someone falls overboard can be a minor injury that the person sustains.

In worse cases, it might be as serious as the person being eaten by a fish.

When someone falls overboard, the person is exposed to dangers like fractured bones due to height of fall, sustaining an injury and in worse cases being eaten by a fish or drowning in the water.

One of the best ways of reducing the damages the overboard person may sustain is if the person had a life jacket on.

This usually reduces the likelihood of the person drowning.

This saves the life of the person before the rescue team removes the person from the water.

But if the person is not with a life jacket, the chances of survival is low especially in high water currents that is fast moving.

In this guide, you will learn of what happens when someone falls from a boat.

What Happens When Someone Falls Overboard

1) Injury From Plunge Height Of Fall

When someone falls overboard from a boat, the height of the fall plays a role in the severity of injury the person sustains.

If the height of fall is short, the injury will be minimal.

But when the height of fall is really high, the injury that will be sustained will be severe.

The victim will sustain dislocations and fractured bones in various parts of the body.

Apart from having dislocations and fractured bones, the victim will also have some open wounds on the body .

That is why it is very important to always be safety conscious when you are in a boat.

This prevents the cases of man overboard and makes the boat ride more enjoyable.

2) Attack From Sea Animals

Another thing that happens when someone falls overboard is that there is a risk of the person being eaten by sea animals.

This contains a range of wild fishes in the water body.

Such fishes include sharks, puffers, piranda and salmon fishes.

These fishes are carnivorous in nature and do not waste time to eat other fishes and even humans.

It gets worse when you have an open wound when you fall from a boat.

This will give the carnivorous fishes a fast signal that food is ready somewhere due to your blood that will flow in the water.

That is why it is very important to quickly rescue a person that falls into the water from a boat early before the carnivorous fishes like sharks take the person as a free meal.

3) Victim Develops Hypothermia

Being exposed to cold is very bad to the body.

But most of the times, exposing the body to cold is never a conscious activity.

What causes it most of the times is when someone falls overboard when boating.

In such a case, the rescue of the person might take up to seconds in the fastest rescue.

But before the rescue, the person has already been exposed to a deadly degree of cold from the water.

This leads to hypothermia.

Hypothermia is the significant and potential drop in the temperature of the body.

This usually occurs when the body is exposed to cold.

It gets worse when the cold is very severe.

At such point, a lot of organs in the body starts to malfunction very fast.

This includes the brain and other organs of the body.

If the victim is not removed from the cold water fast, the victim could die in a matter of minutes if the water is very cold and has ice in it.

That is what happens when someone falls overboard into a water body that is very cold.

4) Water Current Drifts Victim Away From Boat

One thing that is always common in large water bodies is that they have water current that is fast moving.

This fast water current quickly carries anything it comes in contact with to the direction it moves.

This is a very common scenario of what happens when someone falls overboard.

The water current moves the person from the point of fall to another place in which the water current flows towards.

That is why it is always very important for the rescue team to respond fast  whenever someone falls into the water from a boat or any sea vessel.

Any delay could mean losing the life of one of the people who boarded the boat which is always a very bad experience.

That is why the rescue team must be very fast before the high current water takes the victim far from visibility.

5) Delay In Boat Journey

What happens when someone falls overboard is that there is always a delay in the journey.

Every boat journey has a precise time estimate when the passengers will reach their destination just like when you are taking a flight.

But a little obstruction comes into the precise time estimate of when you will reach your destination most of the times.

This is usually caused when the boat has a fault like fire burning the boat outboard motor, boat vibrating when accelerating or a passenger falls from the boat.

If a boat has a mechanical fault that can be managed till the boat reaches the destination, the boat will still be driving till it reaches the destination without delaying the passengers.

But in cases where someone falls overboard from the boat, the journey will be delayed.

This is as a result of the boat stopping to rescue the passenger who has fallen from the boat.

This is always fast sometimes but it could take time in other instances.

If the person falls from the boat into a water that is moving slowly, it will be very easy and fast to rescue the victim.

But if the person falls into a fast moving water, then it might take time to remove the person from the fast water current.

This usually delays the boat journey as the person that fell off from the boat must be rescued before the boat can continue on the journey to its destination.

If the person wore a life jacket, the chances of survival is high.

But if the person did not wear a life jacket, the person might die especially if the water current is high.

6) Drowning Of Overboard Victim

What happens when someone falls overboard that is very heart breaking is when the person that fell from the boat drowns.

When someone drowns as a result of falling into a water body from a boat, the chances of survival is always very slim if the rescue team is not fast in taking the person out of the water.

This is usually because the person did not wear a life jacket.

That is why a life jacket and a fire extinguisher is one of the things you have to thoroughly check before a boat departs for any journey.

The life jacket present in a boat must be enough to go round all the passengers in the boat.

Also, the boat operator should also be provided with a life jacket too.

When this is done, it will reduce the magnitude of casualty that is encountered when someone falls overboard.


One of the things a boat operator tries to eliminate all the time a boat journey is active has to do with making sure that no casualty occurs.

But in most of the cases, the casualty that occurs might not be from the boat operator.

It could be from the passenger when they defy boat rules and fall from the boat.

What happens when someone falls overboard is always not good in any way.

That is why it is always very important for the rescue team to be prompt in rescuing the overboard person before casualties like drowning sets in.

Further Reading

How To Prevent Man Overboard Situations

What Can Cause Man Overboard Situations

Boating Emergency That Leads To Serious Casualties

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