Smith Aquatic Safety Service

Smith Aquatic Safety Service

David S. Smith, PhD

8050 Jack Pine Dr. Ypsilanti, MI 48197

About the Expert

Commander, USCG(ret); retained in 600+ cases since 1981: Drowning, Diving, Jet Skis, Water Skiing, Pools, Beaches, Hypothermia, Alcohol, Life Jackets, Environmental Stressors, Accident Reconstruction., Lifeguarding, and Boating Accidents. Water rescue / boating safety training seminars for fire, police, lifeguarding nationally. Lecturer and author in aquatic accident causation-prevention, boat/water safety and rescue. His text 'Water Rescue' is valuable for both attorneys and water rescuers.

Areas of Expertise

  • Aquatics Safety Water Rescue
  • Boating and Watersports Accidents

Expert's Profile

Dr. Smith has an additional office in Charlevoix, MI.

Dr. Dave Smith is a noted lecturer and author in the field of aquatic accident causation-prevention, boat/water safety and rescue. His latest text, "Water Rescue", a proven helpful resource for both attorneys and water rescuers, is available through Amazon.

Smith Aquatic Safety Service (SASS) was created in 1981, upon Dr. Smith's retirement from the U.S. Coast Guard, to provide aquatic safety training. In 1981 Dr. Smith was first contacted to testify as an expert. Both aspects of SASS have grown markedly, with Dr. Smith being retained in hundreds of legal cases, while also training thousands of aquatic safety/rescue personnel. We look forward to assisting you.

The focus of SASS has been to update public and professional knowledge concerning the causes and prevention of water and boating accidents. Dr. Smith developed and initiated a number of training ploys and informational aspects of water safety which have deeply impacted recent, major reductions in North American drowning rates.

These reductions have been based on realization that serious water accidents repeatedly stem from three prime sources: inability to swim; interaction with (relatively) cold water; and, unwise use of alcohol/drugs. Moreover, most drownings, cervical spine injuries, personal water craft accidents, and other mishaps closely follow a similar scenario or behavioral sydrome. Once these forms of repeated behavior are identified, the actual mechanisms involved in aquatic accidents are relatively easily explained to investigators and juries.

David Stewart Smith, Ph.D.
Commander, USCG (RET)


B.S. Naval Science (Honors), U.S. Coast Guard Academy, 1960.
M.Ed. American University, Washington, D.C., 1970.
Ph.D. Education, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, 1981.

Professional Summary

Experienced- Lecturer; Author; Educator. Sea Captain; Search Nationally and Rescue Instructor; Expert (legal/trial) Witness Recognized as listed in : Lawyers' Desk Reference, National Forensic Directory, Who's Who in Midwest/American Education. Legal specialties: Boat accident reconstruction, drowning, boating, alcohol, diving, pools, hypothermia, low head dams, Flotation Devices, rescue procedures, jet skis (Personal Watercraft), water skiing, rules of the road. Certified: Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO); Risk Evaluator; American Red Cross Lifeguard. Member: National- Water Safety Congress; Recreation and Parks Association; Safe Boating Council, etc.

July 1981 to Present, Expert Witness Experience:
Retained or consulted in over 500 cases with aquatics, boating or Jones Act litigation. Have assisted defense or plaintiffs counsel in cases including (but not limited to): murder by drowning; drowning progressions-signs of drowning; drowning in swimming pools, lakes and at beaches; cervical spine injuries in above ground and in ground pools as well as at beaches, plus diving from boats; pool/beach design and construction: water skiing and tubing; jet skis/Wave Runners; white water rafting; boat collisions, capsizings and groundings; aquatic accidents at, in or below hydro electric plants and low head dams; water and boat rescues; life guarding procedures; alcohol and environmental stressors/factors including hypothermia; signs and warnings; reconstruction of water and boating accidents; personal flotation devices. The foregoing include a number of reports, depositions and courtroom testimonies.

July 1981 to Present, Instructional Experience:
Retired from active duty June 30, 1981. Completed Ph.D. (emphasis--psychology). Established consulting service to provide information and seminars in: water and boating safety; hypothermia and near drowning; practical teaching applications; interpersonal communications and related subjects. Featured as leader/speaker in numerous national seminars. Professional Development Lecturer, National Safety Council-Congress. Taught throughout North America, initially averaging 100 seminars per year to: Public Safety and Health personnel; Job Corps; Department of Commerce; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; National Park Service; Armed Forces; State/Regional EMT groups. Served on: National Sea Exploring Advisory Council-BSA; Board of Directors- National Transportation Safety Association. Published Water Wise and Teaching Tips. Certified Risk Evaluator, Old Dominion University.

1976 to July 1981:
Chief, Boating Safety Division/State Liaison Officer, Second Coast Guard District, St. Louis. Interacted with boating safety officials in fifteen primary and six secondary states (Allegheny to Rocky Mountains). Developed nation's first immersion hypothermia presentations. Also generated programs to aid volunteer instructors in teaching aquatic safety. Spoke to/trained thousands of aquatic safety instructors. Appeared on numerous TV/radio programs. Featured in national magazines-newspaper articles, including: Family Circle, Boy's Life, New York Times Magazine, The Physician and Sportsmedicine. Work recognized or awarded by: American Red Cross; National Safety Council; Boy Scouts of America; Girl Scouts of the United States; National EMT Association; National Water Safety Congress; National Association of State Boating Law Administrators; Council for National Cooperation in Aquatics; Aquatic Council, American Alliance for Physical Education, Health, Recreation and Dance; National Recreation and Park Association; National Swimming Pool Institute; and others.

Executive officer (second in command), USCG Base Honolulu. Pri-mary duty--processing hundreds of men and women suffering from per- sonality dysfunctions, situational anxiety, or disciplinary cases. Active in drug/alcohol problem identification-counseling.

Commanding Officer, 1000 ton Cutter Buttonwood. Responsible for aids to navigation-isolated station supply of Leeward Islands, Oahu to Midway. Served as Scoutmaster, Cub Scout leader, co-commodore for Sea Exploring in State of Hawaii.

Aids to Navigation staff, USCG HQ. Completed Masters Degree. Rewrote USCG Aids to Navigation Manual. Wrote several other USCG publications. Studied audio/visual-signage techniques.

Commander, USCG Group Charlevoix, MI. Responsible for personnel and operations of 14 Coast Guard units on upper Lakes Michigan and Huron. Held Search and Rescue responsibility for Michigan side of lakes. Served as Skipper of Sea Explorer Ship. Expanded on ex- perience as Eagle Scout, Quartermaster Sea Explorer, Boy Scout Life Guard-Merit Badge Counselor, Red Cross Water Safety Instructor.

Graduated from USCG Academy. Several tours of duty, two as commanding officer. First afloat command, primarily in search and rescue, aboard USCGC Cape Knox, Norfolk, VA.

Personal Achievements


  • B.S. Naval Science (Honors), U.S. Coast Guard Academy, 1960.
  • M.Ed. American University, Washington, D.C., 1970.
  • Ph.D. Education, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, 1981 (minor--psychology).


  • Certifications: National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.
  • National Safety Council, Safety Training Institute.
  • Various State Nursing Boards.
  • American Red Cross: Lifeguard, Water Safety Instructor; Boy Scouts of America: Life Guard, Eagle Scout, Quartermaster Sea Explorer, Scoutmaster, Sea Explorer Skipper


  • Emergency Services Instructor of the Year, 1998. Illinois E.M.T. Assoc., Springfield, IL.
  • Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Honor Recognition, 1985.
  • AAPHERD, Aquatic Council Honor Award, 1983.
  • National Association of State Boating Law Administrators National Award, 1981.
  • National water Safety Congress, National Award 1981; Regional Award, 1980.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Achievement Medal, 1981.
  • National Safety Council, Marine Section, Chairman's Award, 1980.
  • North Central States Boating Law Administrators, 1979.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Commendation Medal, 1979.
  • Rhode Island Boating Council/International Hypothermia Conference-University of Rhode Island, 1979.
  • George Washington Honor Medal, Freedoms Foundation, Valley Forge, 1970.
  • Cokesbury Scholarship, American University, 1968.


  • Water Rescue: Basic Skills for Emergency Responders. Hanover, MD: Mosby Lifeline, 1993.
  • The Spexcercise Handbook (with M.C. Smith). St. Louis: SPX, 1989.
  • Water Wise. (Aquatic Safety, Near Drowning, Hypothermia Manual) (with S.J. Smith). St. Louis: SASS, 1984 (Rev. 1987).
  • Aquatic Safety, Cold Water Survival, Hypothermia Manual. St. Louis: SASS, 1982.
  • Hypothermia, Cold Water Survival, Critical Care Supplement. St. Louis: SASS, 1982.
  • SMITH'S Teaching Tips. St. Louis: SASS, 1981 (Rev. 1985).
  • Handbook of Cold Water Survival. St. Louis: Second Coast Guard District, 1978.
  • USCG Aids to Navigation Manual (CG-222). Vol. I & II. Washington, D.C.: USCG Headquarters, 1972.
  • Many articles in Waterways Journal, Fire Chief Magazine, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, USCG Academy Alumni Bulletin
  • Media presentations, inc. Fire and Emergency Television Network (FETN), Law Enforcement Television Network (LETN) and the Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation.

Military service

  • Commander, USCG (RET)

More Information

Listed in the Following States

Smith Aquatic Safety Service is listed with ExpertPages in the following jurisdictions: All US Regions and States, Canada (all Provinces).