A 20-year-old woman has been charged with two felonies and three misdemeanors related to a recreational boating accident she was involved in on July 15, when the boat she was operating ran out of control. According to news reports, Dominique Effinger lost control of the 21-foot boat after making a sharp turn at a high speed while intoxicated, resulting in ten passengers being thrown into the water of Lake Gage, Indiana. The passengers were seriously injured, including one arm amputation and one passenger skull fracture. Prosecutors have filed five charges against the driver which includes felony charges of operating a boat while intoxicated resulting in serious bodily injury and operating a boat with an alcohol concentration of at least .08 resulting in serious bodily injury.
This was sadly not the only deadly boating accident we heard about that weekend. In Tampa, Florida, on July 16, two passengers were reported thrown from their boat when the boat was turning. One of the passengers were killed as a result of the accident.
As a maritime lawyer handling boating accidents in the state of Florida, I am too often reminded of the sad fact that our state is one of the leading states for boating fatalities in the country. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in 2016 alone, there were 67 fatalities reported as a result of boating accidents. Some gain more notoriety because of the occupants of the boat, such as the fatality involving the well-known Florida Marlin pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident along with two other occupants when the boat struck an extended jetty located in Miami Beach, Florida, in the early morning hours. Investigations revealed that the boat was being operated by Fernandez, who was intoxicated and had used cocaine earlier that night.
Intoxication is often a cause of a boating accident. Drinking while operating a boat is just as dangerous as drinking while operating an automobile. Judgment and perception are impaired. Maintaining control of a boat at sea requires not only experience, but also requires the operator to pay very close attention and concentrate on the operation of the boat, taking into consideration the surroundings, the weather conditions, and other boats in the area.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Roland L. Green Jr., when speaking about boating safety and how July is the month with the most boating accidents, emphasized how important it is to wear life preservers while boating, as the number one type of accident while boating was falling overboard. It is critical to have a life preserver on to be able to survive long enough to be rescued, and floating on top of the water will also avoid accidents such as being struck by the propeller boats and not being seen by other boats. These types of accidents will not be prevented simply by wearing the life preserver. However, wearing a life preserver is essential to boating safety. Proper boat operation, keeping proper lookouts, following rules of the road, and avoiding consumption of alcohol, are all steps in the right direction for enjoying safe boating on the waters. Florida is a boater’s paradise. It is an amazing place to own and operate a boat, go parasailing, jet skiing, windsurfing, or participate in some other kind of activity on the water if the right safety measures are taken.
We have handled all type of recreational boating and water sport accidents, and are proponents of safety at sea, providing assistance to those harmed at sea due to the fault of another, or a faulty product.
We are always available for free consultation to anybody who has been injured or harmed at sea.