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Pinellas County High-Speed Boat Crash Claims the Life of Local Teenager

By Orlando Personal Injury Attorney on November 3, 2020

According to deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, a deadly boating accident claimed the life of a 16-year-old female teenager and injured two others over the Halloween weekend after the watercraft they were riding aboard crashed into a metal channel marker on the Intracoastal Waterway along Florida’s western coastline.

It was shortly after midnight on Sunday, November 1st, 2020 when emergency responders with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office started to receive distress calls regarding a boating accident that had occurred on the Intracoastal Waterway in Indian Shores near the Treasure Island Causeway. Preliminary investigations from Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri indicate that the group of teenagers, ranging in ages from 16 to 18, were on their way home from a large Halloween house party where the young individuals allegedly participated in recreational drug use and underage drinking activities. During this trek, the boat was being driven at a high rate of speed along the waterway by another teen member of the group when it suddenly collided with a channel marker. The force of impact from the accident caused all seven teenagers to be ejected from the boat into the dark waters below. No one was wearing a life jacket at the time of the collision.

Upon arriving at the crash site, local search & rescue teams were successfully able to locate and save six of the seven teenagers who had been thrown from the boat. However, authorities struggled to find 16-year-old Rachael Herring who had never resurfaced after the collision. Sadly, after using a phone app to detect her location, the young girl was pulled from the waterway approximately ½ mile south of the accident and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officers with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office have arrested and charged the 16-year-old male driver of the boat, Gavin Johnston, with vessel homicide. According to their reports, the 2014 Yellowfin watercraft involved in this incident was recently purchased by one of the teenager’s parents and had yet to be properly registered in the state of Florida. A warrant has been secured for the boat so authorities can review critical electronic data from the vessel for the moments leading up to the fatal accident.


James O. Cunningham

James O. CunninghamSince 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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