Family Shares Their Frightening Boating Story

Troy Brown said following a horrible boating accident he could literally see his son's heart beating inside his chest. "I was less than a millimeter away from losing him," said Brown. (Image courtesy TWRA)

Every day we see and hear of terrible accidents and tragedies in the news and on TV. Rarely, however, do we hear “the back story” – the circumstances that led up to the accident or the horrible pain, physical and mental, endured afterwards by the people involved.

One family recently agreed to share their story in hopes that others might learn, hopefully preventing others from suffering the same pain and anguish they experienced. Troy and Julie Brown sat down in front of a camera sharing their story from the heart. Watch this emotional and compelling video and you will have a far better appreciation of safety on your next visit to the lake.

TWRA Sgt. Jon Ryan said, “There’s a certain amount of complacency that comes with coming to the lake. It’s water. People don’t think of things that can happen. They don’t see the things that our officers across the state see.”

In 2015 the Browns, along with another family, were on their pontoon boat enjoying a beautiful day on Center Hill Lake.

“I was pretty new to being on the boat and being back on it with a family,” said Troy.

After a morning riding the lake, tubing and knee boarding the families stopped for lunch. Everybody found a place to sit down on the boat, relaxing and enjoying a meal on the lake. The Brown’s son, 8-year-old Aiden, sat down on the bow of the boat.

After eating his lunch, one passenger wanted to try knee boarding again. He hopped in the water and without thinking, Troy began to speed up and bring the boat up on plane. Quickly Julie and Troy realized Aiden was still on the bow. They realized the potential danger but in an instant, before Troy could slow the boat down, the tragedy occurred.

“The next thing I know I felt a bump and [behind the boat] between me and the rider, my son popped up,” said Troy.

They quickly pulled the blood-covered youngster back on board, called 9-1-1 and sped toward the boat ramp.

Aiden was wearing a life preserver when he went off the bow, under the boat and was hit by the spinning prop. At the ramp paramedics removed the life preserver to assess his wounds. Through the huge gash across his chest Troy said, “His whole chest was completely open. I could literally see his heart beating.”

Following the accident on Center Hill Lake, Aiden Brown was flown by LifeForce to the Erlanger Level 1 Trauma Center where he survived his near-death experience. However the youngster has been through eleven surgeries since that time to repair the damage wrought by the spinning prop. (Image courtesy TWRA)

Aiden was flown by LifeForce to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga. Thankfully he survived although he has endured eleven surgeries since that fateful day.

Any Tennessee resident born after January 1, 1989 must pass the TWRA Boating Safety Education course before operating a vessel on their own. The Browns, however, are encouraging every boater to take the course whether it’s required or not.

“I was less than a millimeter away from losing [my son],” said Troy. “Anybody listening, anybody who hears my story, if I had taken this class in the beginning I wouldn’t have had to worry about it.”

Visit the TWRA website to learn how to take the course and exam. Now is the perfect time before the summer boating season kicks in.

Troy and Julie Brown wish they had done it.

The Brown family, including Aiden, are getting past that traumatic day in 2015 but say the experience forever changed their lives, and their outlook on the importance of boating safety. (Image courtesy TWRA)
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