Articles Posted in Recreational Boating & Water Sport Accidents

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.

indiana-300x222This 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.

This past week, there were two reported incidents of missing paddle boarders. The first incident occurred in Pensacola Beach Florida, where the body of a missing paddle boarder was found near the Bob Sikes Bridge early Tuesday morning. The victim, a male 26-year-old from Texas, was reported missing on Sunday, when a tourist found his paddle board and life jacket floating in Little Sabine. It is unknown at this time whether he was wearing a life jacket.

paddleboard-300x225The second incident involved another male in his 20s who went missing Sunday night at Hobie Beach, which is off the Rickenbacker Causeway. His body was found a couple of hours later. Bystanders had saw him fall off his board and went to help him, while others called 911. By the time they reached the area, the victim was already submerged under water. He was reported to not have been wearing a life jacket. According to the employees at the rental company the male had rented the paddle board from, the company in fact has a life jacket requirement. It is unknown why the victim was not in compliance with the requirement at this time. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the death and whether the victim knew how to swim.

These tragedies again highlight the dangers of operating any sort of personal vessel on the water. There has been a growing rise in paddle boarding, which means there has been a growing rise in the accidents and fatalities resulting from paddle boarding.  According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the U.S Coast Guard has determined a paddle board to be a vessel in most situations. This means that paddle boards are required have safety equipment similar to other human-powered vessels such as kayaks and canoes. Although in Florida it is not required to wear a life jacket, each paddle board must have a lifejacket for each person and some type of sound-producing device, like a whistle or horn, that can be heard in case of danger.

MIAMI, Florida–Two spring-breakers quickly saw the fun and thrill of riding a jet ski turn to the terror of almost getting run over by a cruise ship. This past Saturday, two jet skiers were riding on these personal watercrafts right by the mouth of the Port Canaveral harbor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when their jet skis flipped them over into the water. At the same time, the Carnival Magic cruise ship was navigating out of the Port Canaveral Harbor. This meant that the two teenagers, ages 19 and 20, were now in the water, watching the approaching cruise ship come at them.

jetski-300x225Imagine a 130, 000-ton cruise ship coming at you, and imagine the horror of the pilot knowing there was no way to maneuver out of the way of the two girls. There is little ability to quickly maneuver a large passenger cruise ship, which in this case was the cruise ship owned by Carnival Cruise Line. Not only is it hard to quickly maneuver a large cruise ship but it was also hard for the girls to swim out of the way, as a breeze was pushing the woman more into the path of the approaching cruise ship according to the Port Canaveral Harbor Pilot Capt. Doug Brown. Capt. Doug Brown quickly alerted the Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy who was at patrol boat nearby to come help. Luckily the deputy was able to rescue the two girls, as Brown tried to change the ship’s course.

This jet ski incident is unfortunately one of many, as we have reported on many accidents involving these personal watercrafts, including fatalities. Jet skis are dangerous instrumentalities. They are hard to keep under control, as they are very powerful and can go very fast.

MIAMI, Florida– We previously reported about the tragic accident that took the life of star baseball pitcher José Fernandez of the Florida Marlins in September. Also killed in the boating accident were the two men on the boat with Fernandez, Emilio Jesus Macias and Eduardo Rivero. Macias was a banker, and Rivero, a sales representative at Carnival Cruise Lines. While Rivero was a friend of José Fernandez, Macias had just met Fernandez for the first time a few hours before the fatal boat accident. In our last report in October we had mentioned that the families of Macias and Rivero had hired attorneys. Over the past week, both families filed suit against Fernandez’s estate.

rock-jetty-1408334-300x225At the time of the crash, Jose Fernandez’s career was blossoming. In fact, it is reported that he was scheduled to sign a $30 million contract which would have taken place sometime shortly after the date he was killed in the boating accident that happened in Miami Beach Florida, when a high-powered boat he owned crashed into a jetty that was extended out of the government cut.

The initial reports on the accident discussed how this particular area had been involved in prior accidents because the rocky jetty protruding out of Government Cut is not easy to observe at night as there were no lights on it, and is often hidden by the water and waves. The reports discussed the failure to have provided appropriate lighting based on the dangers in the prior reported incidents. The channel for the boats to operate in actually avoids the jetty, but if someone were taking a shortcut approach, the jetty is easy to strike if you are not aware of it because it is so difficult to see. Soon after the incident, it was reported that the star baseball pitcher had actually been drinking and had cocaine in his system. This was a shock to the sports world and of course very damaging to the reputation of this star baseball pitcher.

MIAMI, Florida–On Sunday night a man in his 30s was found dead in Biscayne Bay, located in Miami. The man had been operating a Jet Ski. The man was found next to a very damaged Jet Ski after something had happened causing the tragic accident. Therefore, it is unknown at this time what had caused the death. It is not clear whether another WaveRunner was involved, or whether another person was involved. There will have to be determination of why this particular Jet Ski accident happened, resulting in another death of an operator of these types of personal watercrafts.

jetski-night-300x182I have reported many times that personal watercrafts, including Jet Skis, are dangerous instrumentalities, and anyone operating a Jet Ski should be experienced with the operation of the Jet Ski, and basic safety rules. In fact, Florida boating safety laws require a watercraft livery to provide specific safety instructions, ensuring the person knows how to operate a Jet Ski prior to navigating one on the waters. In this case we are not sure whether the man involved in the death had rented the equipment and what kind of experience he had in operating Jet Skis.

Jet Skis can be a lot of fun and very exciting to go fast on, riding on waves and wakes from other boats. However, there are clearly many dangers to these personal watercraft, which can be operated at very high rates of speed. It is easy to lose control of a Jet Ski when driving and difficult to stop a Jet Ski going at a high rate of speed.

It was reported that a 45-foot fishing boat was hit by what is called a rogue wave, causing the boat to start sinking off the coast of Maine. Fortunately Coast Guard rescued the fisherman, and nobody died as a result of this incident.

wave3-300x199Rogue waves are not unknown to the maritime world. There is in fact a saying that the sea is a “harsh mistress” that can develop powerful waves and wind, and is able to cause much harm to vessels and structures. However, vessels should be prepared for this type of rough weather based on modern day equipment, which is able to provide up to date forecasts of the seas, and when conditions that the vessel plans on encountering may be rough.

Cruise ships will often times plot their voyage itineraries based on tracked weather forecasts, and make adjustments during the voyage based on up-to-date weather reports that are constantly being provided to the vessel. The wind and sea are critical to monitor in order to provide for a reasonably safe and comfortable voyage. However, captains must be trained to guard against unexpected adjustments in the weather, as well as unexpected sea conditions, which often happens due to various reasons.

MIAMI, Florida– This past Tuesday, three teenagers were rescued off the Florida Keys after their boat flipped over. The three teen boys were smart enough to stay on top of their capsized 22-foot rental boat until they were rescued. According to the police, the rental boat had been anchored about 2.5 miles off shore when it started taking on water. The boys cut the anchor line but there was already too much water in the boat, causing it to flip over.  The young teens then climbed to the top of the hull and one of them called 911 on their cellphone. A Monroe County Marine Deputy and a Florida Fish and Wildlife Investigator were able to find and rescue the boys.

keywest-300x217This boating accident again illustrates the dangers of operating a motor boat, even in the bay waters, as we saw in another capsizing incident earlier this week. The three boys were ages 18, 16, and 18. Although old enough to operate a boat, I wonder as to their experience in operating a boat. A boat is a dangerous instrumentality. These three young men are very lucky because they were in the middle of the ocean, far away from other boats. It was fortunate that the rescue team could find them in time before their boat went completely under water. This incident also illustrates the need to wear lifejackets at all times. The boys were not wearing lifejackets at the time and were not able to access them after their boat flipped over.

In this case, I am not sure whether the there was any problem with the boat, which was a rental boat. In such a case there could be a claim brought against the company that rented the boat. I am not sure what their requirements were before renting the boat to these three young men with respect to proof of experience, and what instructions, if any, the young men were given.

MIAMI, Florida– The dangers of operating personal watercraft, such as a jet ski, have again come into the forefront with the reported death of a 32-year-old man who was operating his personal watercraft in the waters of Blue Lagoon in Miami, Florida. On Monday afternoon, the man was seen flying into the air off his jet ski, appearing to have struck something causing it to abruptly stop, ejecting him into the water. There were others with him at the time who immediately tried to locate him, but due to the conditions of the water, which included choppy and murky water with a lot of seaweed, the young man’s body was unable to be found.

jet-ski-300x200Search and rescue efforts were then started by the City of Miami Dive Rescue, and those efforts were stopped without successfully locating the body, due to weather conditions. Yesterday, it was reported that a body, identified as the Manuel Aponte, the individual involved in the jet ski incident, was found. The body was found floating in the same area that the accident had occurred.

Operating a personal watered craft can be very dangerous. The operator should be experienced, and should be wearing a life jacket at all times. It is important not to operate the personal watercraft at excessive speed so that one can avoid any obstacles found in the waterways. Equally important is that the operator be familiar with the waterways in case there are shallow areas and the possibility of any objects protruding out of the water. In this case, I am not sure whether there was something floating in the water that the jet ski struck.

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.

capszie-boat-300x225Fortunately, 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.

MIAMI, Florida-Dalton Matthew Reas, 20 years old, from Wauchula Florida, is reported to have been arrested by Charlotte County Sheriff’s office in connection with the death of Dylan Gonzalez, a 23 year old young fisherman from Englewood.

fl-boat-blog-300x225The boating accident happened on June 19 near Boca Grande. Mr. Gonzalez was aboard a boat described as a 19-foot Ranger. Another passenger on the boat was also injured from the crash.  The boat that Dalton Reas was operating was a 20-foot Lake and Bay boat, and had 5 passengers on board. A passenger aboard the 20-foot boat was also injured.

Dalton Reas was speeding, in a no-wake zone, and had no running lights on at the time of the incident, even though it was 4:22 AM. The 20-foot boat crashed into the boat Mr. Gonzalez was fishing on at the time, causing Mr. Gonzalez to be thrown into the water from the impact. According to reports, the boat operated by Reas had struck a channel marker prior to hitting Gonzalez’s boat. Reas fled us soon as the incident happened.

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