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Boat Emergency Product Born from Life-or-Death Situation

Two fathers who nearly drowned with their kids after their boat sank turn the near tragedy into a life-saving new product.

The new product Life Cell could provide salvation for boaters after a sinking.

Consider the well-worn proverb "Necessity is the mother of invention" when assessing the Life Cell, a new emergency ditchbag kit from Australian manufacturer Life Cell Marine Safety.

In December 2011, buddies Scott Smiles and Rick Matthews were fishing with their 11-year-old sons aboard a 40-foot powerboat about 6 miles offshore of Sydney, Australia, when a fire erupted and quickly sank the boat.

Given the catastrophic speed of the sinking, the four found themselves clinging to a floating cooler to keep their heads above water.

Take a look at the news report by Sky News in Australia of the dramatic rescue of the families.

Safe and sound, Smiles and Matthews got to brainstorming. From their own experiences, they knew safety equipment is often stored under seats, in gunwales, or under bunks, making it difficult to locate in a time of emergency.

Their idea for a remedy is called Life Cell, which combines all of this essential safety equipment in a floating ditchbag. If you do end up in the water, Life Cell will not only keep you afloat, but it will keep everybody together with handles all around the floating product, and provides a stable platform from which to operate your safety equipment at the appropriate time. The kit (there are four models to choose from) can hold flares, a flare gun, an EPIRB, signal flag, whistle, air horn, flashlight, and more. Contents are not included with the case.

Life Cell can hold essential safety gear in its watertight kit.

SOLAS-approved Life Cell is available in high-visibility orange or white and, depending on the model, costs between $279 and $439.


Rich Armstrong

Senior Editor, BoatUS Magazine

A journalist by training, BoatUS Magazine Senior Editor Rich Armstrong has worked in TV news, and at several newspapers, then spent 18 years as a top editor at other boating publications. He’s built a stellar reputation in the marine industry as one of the most thorough reporters in our business. At BoatUS Magazine, Rich handles everything from boat and product innovation and late-breaking news, to compelling feature stories, boat reviews, and features on people and places. The New Jersey shore and lakes of lower New York defined Rich's childhood. But when he bought a 21-foot Four Winns deck boat and introduced his young family to the Connecticut River, his love for the world of boats flourished from there.