Sixteen year old sailor Abby Sunderland should arrive home in California today, her plan to be the youngest person to sail around the world solo scuttled by another young adventurer who beat her to the title, and her small boat wrecked a violent storm in the Indian Ocean that resulted in a massive rescue effort that involved a chartered jet and at least three ships, at a cost reported to be somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000.
While we were all relieved at the news that Ms. Sunderland was safe, I have to ask the same question that goes through my mind every time some foolish adventurer gets into trouble that requires a massive rescue effort. Who pays the bill?
The news reports say that the countries involved in the rescue effort have no plans to seek payment for their services, because rescues at sea are covered under international agreements regarding maritime search and rescue operations.
Okay, but somebody has to pay the bills, whether it be American taxpayers, or in this case, citizens of France and Australia, the countries who participated in the girl’s rescue.
I can understand an all out effort to save the crew of a commercial vessel who get into danger at sea, or even people on a private boat who run into unforeseen difficulties. But we’re talking about a teenager who really had no business being out on the ocean by herself. And I say that whether it had been a boy or a girl, or even an adult for that matter. Is it really fair to expect taxpayers of any country to pay for the foolhardiness of somebody who pushes their luck and gets into trouble?
Every year in America huge sums of money and uncounted man-hours are spent to rescue hikers who get lost, mountain bikers who run off cliffs, boaters who push their luck too far, mountain climbers who fall, and hunters who do something stupid. These are not innocent victims, they are people who chose to put themselves in danger, relying on the fact that if they get into trouble, somebody will come to their rescue. Who pays for that? Usually the taxpayers do. But not always.
In some states, Arizona for one, they expect you to pay the cost if you do something foolish that puts you in a situation that requires rescuing. Every year during, Arizona’s annual monsoon season, brain dead drivers ignore warning signs and enter flooded washes. If they are lucky, they might lose their vehicle. If they are not so lucky, they lose their lives. If they survive, it is usually because brave rescue personnel put their lives on the line to save them. Rescuing these numbskulls sometimes involves helicopters, and always entails great personal risk to those who come to get them back to dry land.
I have no objection to the state fining anyone so dumb as to drive into a flooded wash, and I think that they should be expected to pay the costs for their rescue. Maybe you can’t fix stupid, but it shouldn’t be a ticket to a free ride either. What do you think?
Tags: Abby Sunderland, adventurer, Arizona, California, chartered jet, commercial vessel, danger at sea, drive into a flooded wash, helicopters, Indian Ocean, innocent victims, lost hikers, maritime search and rescue operations, massive rescue effort, mountain climbers, private boat, rescue hikers, rescue personnel, rescues at sea, sail around the world solo, small boat, taxpayers