Boating Under the Influence
A boating accident in Wilton Manors earlier this month claimed the life of a Florida teen and left five others with serious injuries. According to authorities the group of six teens were aboard a 13 foot Boston Whaler boat the night of August 13th, when they struck a low lying bridge on the Middle River near Wilton Manors. The accident occurred around midnight, in an area with extremely low visibility. Family and friends say the teens were out observing a meteor shower. Residents in the area saw the teens out on the water earlier in the day, and said they seemed to be exploring the area. Once the daylight faded, the unfamiliarity of the area proved fatal.
Indian Harbour Beach police report that they have filed charges against a Satellite Beach man who crashed his 19-foot boat into a dock on the west side of Grand Canal recently. After the initial collision with the dock, the man turned his boat, where it crashed through mango trees and into the backyard of a nearby home. The man’s four-year-old daughter was also aboard the boat when the accidents occurred but was uninjured. The 36-year-old man faces a number of charges in connection with the accidents, including felony boating under the influence, probation violations, child abuse and BUI with property damage. The probation violation stemmed from a DUI conviction in 2011.
Orlando personal injury lawyer James O. Cunningham has seen and assisted a lot of Florida boating accident victims over the nearly four decades since he began practicing law. Sadly, many of these accidents were caused by negligent boaters who operated their vessels while under the influence of alcohol. Florida has more than 11,000 square miles of waterways. In 2011, there were at least 25 confirmed cases of accidents caused by boating under the influence of alcohol or BUI. These accidents resulted in dozens of injuries that required trips to the emergency room. In order to raise awareness about the risks of BUI and help make Florida waterways safer for the upcoming busy summer boating season, Mr. Cunningham has compiled a list of criminal penalties for boaters who drink while operating their vessels.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officials recently closed their investigation into one of two fatal boating accidents and found that excessive speed and a boater’s inexperience were contributing factors. The 53-year-old victim of one of the accidents died from injuries after being ejected from his watercraft and struck by another during a boating exhibition on Lake Dora. The fatal accident occurred on March 17 during the Classic Raceboat Association’s annual Spring Thunder Regatta. The victim was operating his speedboat when it struck the water at a dangerous angle, throwing him from his vessel. He was struck a few seconds later by a nearby boat and died instantly from his injuries.
The Labor Day weekend traditionally ends the most dangerous time for boaters in Central Florida and throughout the state. The vast majority of boating accidents and the deaths and injuries they cause occur between the busy Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, and officers have been especially diligent about negligent boaters this summer. Over that period of time this past summer, officers arrested no less than 50 boaters for boating while intoxicated in Central Florida, with half of the arrests happening in Volusia County alone.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission urge boaters and their passengers to take a refresher course in boating safety for everyone’s benefit. Florida’s waterways and coasts offer some of the best recreational boating in the country. However, on too many occasions the operators of watercraft fail to honor their responsibilities and drink alcohol to the excess while on the water, don’t observe speed and wake restrictions and people are hurt and killed.
Under Florida law, it is illegal to operate a vessel of any kind while impaired by alcohol and other drugs. An operator suspected of boating under the influence must submit to sobriety tests and a physical or chemical test to determine blood-alcohol content. As with motor vehicle sobriety laws, a vessel operator is legally drunk with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or above.