Florida Boater Arrested in Connection to Fatal Boating Accident

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.

An investigation was started by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, which has jurisdiction over these type of boating accidents. Although they have not issued their final report yet about the incident, Reas turned himself in this past Tuesday, December 20.

Reas has been charged with numerous counts in this fatal boating collision which includes boating under the influence, failure to give information or render aid,  BUI, causing serious bodily injury to another, as well as violation of navigational rules. Reports indicate that Reas has been arrested before for driving under the influence. This incident reflects an operator of a boat who should never have been operating a boat, and also illustrates the dangers on the waterways, even if you are a prudent and careful boat operator.

The boat that got struck was fishing at the time of the collision, complying with the navigational and safety rules,when a reckless boat operator plowed into them and then took off, resulting in personal injuries and death. However, just as in an automobile, when on the waterway you must be very vigilant and keep an eye out for the other guy who may not be so vigilant, and who may in fact be recklessly operating a boat.

An operator of a boat who acts negligently, carelessly, or recklessly, can be held not only criminally liable, but also liable for damages caused by his or her passengers, as well as others injured as a result of the wrongful conduct. When the wrongful conduct results in death, there are can be a wrongful death lawsuit pursuant to Florida wrongful death statues, and a wrongful death action under the General maritime law. If the wrongful conduct results in death outside the territorial waters of the state, then a wrongful death action will fall under the Death on the High Seas Act, a federal statute providing for actions for wrongful death as a result of wrongful conduct outside territorial waters of the state. The type of damages recoverable are different in wrongful death from personal injury cases.

If the conduct is determined to be willful, wanton and reckless disregard for the safety and lives of others, as in this case where the boat was being operated at an excessive rate of speed, with no running lights, and while under the influence of alcohol, punitive damages can also be assessed against the boat operator in addition to compensatory damages caused to the injured people. This is in addition to the criminal penalties. The civil case will have a different burden of proof. In a civil case the proof will only be the greater weight of the evidence, whereas in the criminal case the state must prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Although nothing will bring Dylan Gonzalez back, we hope  justice will be served. This tragic boating collision is sadly not the first deadly accident in the Florida waterways, which leads the country in boating fatalities. Changes need to be made and more preventative measures need to be enforced to diminish recreational boating and water sport accidents if we ever want Florida to be known as a safe place for boaters.

Sources: Boater charged with numerous counts in Gonzalez fatal accident