BOSTON – The U.S. Coast Guard says there was a spike last year in recreational boating deaths in New England.

The Coast Guard says its 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics report finds the number of deaths rose in the region from 34 in 2015 to 55 in 2016, an increase of 62 percent.

It says 40 of those 55 people who died drowned, and 45 were not wearing a life jacket. Twenty-nine of the 55 deaths involved a paddlecraft.

In Maine in 2016, there were 49 recreational boating accidents reported, resulting in nine deaths, 23 injuries, and more than $737,000 in damages, according to the report.

Walt Taylor, a recreational boating safety coordinator with the Coast Guard, says now is the time to prepare to get on the water safely.

He suggests ensuring inflatable life jackets operate properly, checking that flares and fire extinguishers are not past their expiration dates and changing batteries in strobe lights, beacons and handheld radios.

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