MIAMI, Florida-Yesterday evening, an 80-year-old Florida woman had to be hospitalized after the boat she was traveling on capsized, throwing all 14 passengers into the water. The boat began taking on water in a canal off of Biscayne Bay, located in Miami, Florida. It was reported that the boat then struck a wave, causing it to flip with all 14 passengers, which included children, falling into the water.
Fortunately, there was a Good Samaritan who observed the incident and responded promptly, rescuing four passengers before the police and rescue team arrived. During this time, an elderly woman, listed to be 80 years old, was discovered to be trapped under the water. By the time she was pulled out of the water, she did not have a pulse. She needed to be resuscitated and immediately hospitalized. I do not have any updates as to her condition.
Encountering strong waves is definitely a risk associated with recreational boating and water sports. An experienced operator of the boat should know how to encounter waves in the best manner possible to avoid the impact on the boat. It does not appear that this was a particularly unsafe boating area as people who were interviewed stated that they have seen very few boating accidents in that area, and that such an incident would normally be associated with some error on the part of the operator of the boat, such as overloading the boat. However, according to the most recent boating statistics, a capsizing boating has been ranked the second highest in terms of secondary types of boating accidents in Florida.
An investigation into the facts of the case, and questioning the operator of the boat is definitely in store for the investigators. The most troubling fact revealed is that none of the passengers were wearing life jackets! As safety advocates, we have always urged that anyone operating watercraft of any kind should wear a life jacket. This applies even if you are traveling on Biscayne Bay, and not the ocean. It also applies regardless of your experience operating boats. The leading cause of fatal recreational boating and water sport accidents was drowning, and over half of those involved were men with over 100 hours of boating experience. In this incident the elderly lady may have not been stuck under the water had she been wearing a life jacket.
There is a duty and obligation on the part of the boat operator to maintain the proper number of lifejackets for his or her passengers. It is also illegal operation to operate your boat in an unsafe manner. This means boating operators must navigate in such a manner as to encounter waves in a safe way. Of course, there is always the possibility of a rogue wave that can affect even the most experienced operator, but this does not seem to be the case in this particular incident.
Again, if you are operating any type of personal watercraft or boat, make sure you are experienced in your knowledge of the safety and navigational rules, including the requirement of equipping your vessel with life jackets.