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Florida Maritime Accident Lawyer

Boating Accidents

editor photo

Editor: Gabrielle D'Alemberte
Profession: Florida Maritime Attorney

July 28, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Destin Man Faces 45 Years in Prison on BUI Charges

Category: Boating Accidents

A jury in the Florida Panhandle has found Augusta Frederick Kennedy guilty of 3 counts of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) manslaughter. He also faces 5 misdemeanor charges related to the crash. At sentencing he could face up to 45 years in prison.

The accident occurred on September 4, 2009 in the Intracoastal Waterway near Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The USCG said Kennedy's blood-alcohol level was 0.19%, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08%, and that he was doing 22 knots at the time that his vessel collided with another. That boat was carrying 4 people, 3 of whom were killed. The three people killed were the mother, father, and aunt of the operator of the boat.

June 15, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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42 year-old Female Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy Hits Boat Lift in ICW in Jupiter, Florida

Category: Boating Accidents

A 15 year veteran of the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office is in intensive care at the St. Mary's Medical Center after she hit a dock in Jupiter last Saturday (June 12, 2010). Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating. The accident resulted in amputation of her arm.

Deputy Cheryl Griffin, 42, and a female friend, Melissa Burden, 38, were riding in a boat in the ICW in Jupiter in the afternoon when their 20 foot boat crashed into a boat lift behind a house on Paradise Point Road in Jupiter, Florida.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers said a boat hanging on the lift fell on top of the women, crushing them. Griffin suffered a broken neck, sustained head injuries and lost her right arm.


The passenger, Melissa Burdeen, 38, was slightly injured in the incident.

This accident demonstrates how boating accidents can happen to even the most well trained of operators. It is not just novices, or drunk drivers who have serious accidents.

June 10, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Third Time in Two Weeks: Boat Propeller Strikes Yet Another Boater

Category: Boating Accidents

It seems like boating accidents happen in clusters, and this season is no different. Twelve days ago two small boys, aged 8 and 4, were struck by a boat's propeller after the boat hit a buoy near John Pennenkamp State Park. Then, seven days ago a 13 year old was struck by a boat's propeller near Biscayne National Park. Yesterday, June 8, 2010, a 23 year old young man had his legs nearly amputated by a boat's propeller.

This time the accident occurred on the Homosassa River near Crystal River on Florida's Gulf Coast. The 23 year old fell out of a boat when the driver reached to operate the radio and the boat made an unexpected right turn. The call to the authorities came at 9 pm, so we can assume that darkness was a factor. Rather than a sudden turn, I have to wonder if the boat hit an obstruction, throwing it off course. Boat operators seldom jerk the wheel so suddenly as to make someone fall overboard. The more likely scenario is that the operator took his hands from the wheel, the boat hit an obstruction which was invisible due to the darkness, and it jerked the boat to one side.

The injured man was taken by helicopter to Tampa General Hospital.

June 09, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Parasailing With a 6 year-old

Category: Boating Accidents

A father and his six year old daughter were injured on Monday, June 7 when their parasail hit a seawall off of downtown Miami. Both were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Visiting from Chicago with a family of 6, they started parasailing east of Miami's Bayside Marketplace. Shortly after becoming airborne the parasail malfunctioned. At some point the tow line broke, causing the two to run into a seawall before dropping onto the beach."

Read more in the Miami Herald.


June 04, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Boat Propeller injures Another Youth in South Florida

Category: Boating Accidents

Just five days after two boys were struck by a boat propeller near John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, it has happened again.

This time three boys, 17-year-old Kyle Jenson, 13-year-old Parker Brannon, and 18-year-old Andrew Brannon were riding in what appears to be a 17 foot long Sea Squirt open fishing boat named "Hooker" near Black Point Marina near to Biscayne National Park on June 3, 2010. Parker Brannon fell over the side and Kyle Jenson, who was driving the boat, was unable to stop before the boat's propeller hit Brannon.

The propeller caused Parker Brannon to suffer severe cuts to his arm and shoulder, some of which were to the bone. He remains in critical condition.

Once again, propeller guards would likely have made this accident less severe than it was. Unfortunately, boat and engine manufacturers aren't required by the Coast Guard to provide propeller guards on the boats and engines they sell.

June 03, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Two Boys, 8 and 4, Hit By Boat Propeller: Is it Time to Re-Think the Issue of Propeller Guards?

Category: Boating Accidents

Last Memorial Day weekend two small boys, aged 8 and 4, were badly injured by the propeller of their father's boat. The injuries didn't have to happen. More about the accident later.

Since the Federal Boating Safety Act was passed in 1971 various non-manufacturers of boats have tried to get the Coast Guard to recognize that the use of propeller guards would save lives. Marine manufacturers have been uniformly against guards, and since they are a powerful voice, guards have never been required. The Coast Guard's rationale for not requiring propeller guards is this:

"The regulatory process is very structured and stringent regarding justification. Available propeller guard accident data do not support imposition of a regulation requiring propeller guards on motorboats. Regulatory action is also limited by the many questions about whether a universally acceptable propeller guard is available or technically feasible in all modes of boat operation. Additionally, the question of retrofitting millions of boats would certainly be a major economic consideration."

In this case, a family of four were running their 18-foot Hewes fishing boat when it struck a channel marker near the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. All four of them were thrown from the boat. The boat circled around and ran into the two boys. The 8 year old was seriously injured. The boys' parents, boat operator Andrew Koehler, 46, and mother Lisa Koehler, 44, were less seriously injured.

The accident occurred on South Sound Creek off Key Largo at 9 a.m. on the Saturday before Memorial Day.

You can read more about the accident in The Florida Keys Keynoter.

June 02, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Memorial Day Boating Accident at New Smyrna Beach kills 2 adults and Unborn Child

Category: Boating Accidents

Madison Holley was 19, a 2009 graduate of Deland High School, and was nine months pregnant. Her picture is that of a smiling, fresh-faced, blond cheerleader who had her whole life in front of her. She had already named the infant she was carrying "Carter." All that ended in a boating accident on Memorial Day when her father's boat was run over by another boat directly in front of the New Smyrna Beach Coast Guard Station. Her father was killed in the accident as well.

Preliminary indications are that the boats were following one another. They had slowed to pass through a manatee zone, and were speeding up when the collision occurred. The larger boat, a 25-foot Chaparral, with six aboard, was probably trying to get on plane. It was behind the smaller 18-foot Sundance center console which was carrying seven people. As the Chapparal increased speed its bow likely came out of the water blocking the driver's view. It ran completely over the smaller boat killing C.J. Holley, 46 and Madison, his daughter and her unborn child. Paige Holley, 45, wife and mother of those killed, was injured along with Jennifer Minotti, 14 who was also was hurt

The accident is being investigated by Kevin McKinney of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A memorial to Madison Holley has been set up by her friends on Facebook. You can read more about the accident in the Daytona Beach News Journal.

June 01, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Yacht Broker Found Liable for Negligent Misrepresentation

Category: Boating Accidents

Here is what appears to be a fairly typical description of a yacht for sale:

"This awesome like 'NEW' ... solid fiberglass Custom Carolina Sport Fish has all the attributes you would expect out of a high performance custom yacht. The speed, sea handling and those looks, with the sleek profile and Carolina flare."

However, when the buyer of this yacht found out he had bought a lemon, he sued the broker for negligent misrepresentation. Not only did he sue, he won!

Brian O'Neill, a yacht buyer from Rhode Island, went to South Florida to purchase a 2005 66-foot sportfishing boat in March 2007 after seeing the HMY Yachts ad on the Internet listing it for $2.6 million. O'Neill met with HMY's broker, Jim Barboni and the yacht's previous owner, Richard Talbert in North Palm Beach and later took the vessel out on Lake Worth for a sea trial. Thomas Price of Price Marine Services in Fort Lauderdale was along as well to perform a marine survey for the buyer.

In April of 2007 he bought the yacht for $2.3 million. During the trip from South Florida back to Rhode Island he discovered that the boat's hull was ``flexing,'' or violently shifting up and down. O'Neill said he had another survey of the boat done after arriving in Rhode Island, and a naval architect found a number of defects that made the vessel ``structurally unsound'' and ``unseaworthy.'' Estimates of the cost to repair the vessel were between $600,000 and $1 million.

The jury ruled HMY Yacht Sales, the brokerage company, was 85 percent negligent and Barboni, the actual broker, was 5 percent negligent. They were found liable for $1.8 million. Talbert, the seller, was 5 percent negligent, and Talbert's company, Double Billed, was 5 percent negligent. Both Talbert and Double Billed had already settled out of court.

This ruling will no doubt send shivers up the spines of yacht brokers throughout the country. For more details check out this article in the Miami Herald.


February 21, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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If you are drunk, get a designated driver (but make sure the DD is an adult)

Category: Boating Accidents

A 33 year old man from Oldsmar, Florida was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison in a BUI manslaughter accident. Jeremy Rettman was intoxicated and in his 16-foot Hydrosport boat on Tarpon Lake in Clearwater in April 2008. With him were his daughter, Amanda, his roommate, Patricia Blankenship, and another friend, Justin Sheilds.

Rettman let his 10-year-old daughter, Amanda, steer the boat while Rettman was operating the throttle. Another friend, Justin Shields, 20, was standing next to Rettman's daughter. Nevertheless, Amanda ran the boat into another unoccupied boat.

One of the passengers, a 21-year-old friend, was hit by the boat's propeller. Patricia Blankenship was mauled by the boat's propeller, which slashed her chest and nearly severed her arm. She was taken to the hospital where she died ten days later.

The jury deliberated about three hours before returning its verdict.

February 21, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Remember to Set the Brakes On Boat Ramps

Category: Boating Accidents

If you have spent any time around boat launch ramps you have likely witnessed someone's car gently slipping into the water because they forgot to set the parking brake in a rush to clear the ramp for other boaters to come and go. Well, the same thing can occur in the dead of night if you are distracted while parking on a boat ramp.

The Peace River meanders about twenty miles to West of Myakka River State Park in Southwest Florida. It is a beautiful place for canoeing and for observing wildlife. Last month, it was a bit wilder than usual. A sixty-five year old Arcadia woman left a Saturday night party with a 41 year old neighbor. She was never seen alive again.

The woman, who was married, and her paramour, parked their car on a boat ramp leading into the Peace River and took off their clothes. Unfortunately no one thought to set the parking brake and the car gently rolled into the river. When the 41 year old lover realized the car was floating he rolled down the window and shouted to his companion to get out. He then swam to safety and spent the night at the Chanyatah Girl Scout Camp. His 65 year old girlfriend never surfaced.

Divers located the car with the woman, still inside and naked, about 100 feet down the river from the boat ramp. The care was sitting in 12 feet of water a were 50 feet from the banks of the river.

January 02, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Florida to the Bahamas in a Small Boat? Take Extra Precautions.

Category: Boating Accidents

What is the smallest boat that can safely travel between Florida and the Bahamas? I don't know, but two men who attempted to make the crossing in a 17 foot motorboat were, in my opinion, pushing the limits of safety.

Last month Richard Alicea and Edwin Pritchard departed from Miami for a Sunday fishing trip in their 17 foot boat. When they didn't return, their family called the Coast Guard which began a search. The following day a passenger on a private plane saw two men on a deserted island north of Bimini waving their arms with the letters "SOS' in the sand nearby. He videotaped what he saw, but when the Coast Guard went to the island they found that it was deserted.

After searching 47,000 miles of ocean, the Coast Guard called off the search. The two men are presumed to be dead.

At its narrowest point, the Bahamas are 50 miles from Florida, and each year people make the crossing on jet skis. However, a convoy of jet skis has a couple of advantages over a single 17 foot boat making the crossing. First, there is safety in numbers. If one jet ski breaks down another can go for help, and a third jet ski can tow the disabled craft. Each jet ski usually has its own GPS and VHF radio, giving redundancy to the safety equipment. Finally, each jet ski has multiple portable fuel tanks, permitting one to re-fuel another if someone runs low on gasoline. A number of tour companies offer trips from Miami to Bimini on jet skis. For safety, those companies have a motorboat accompanying the jet-skiers on the voyage across.


January 02, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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San Diego Coast Guard Boat Collides with Motorboat

Category: Boating Accidents

A 8 year old boy who was the goalie for his California youth ice hockey team was killed when a 33 foot Coast Guard vessel ran into a 24 foot Sea-Ray motorboat which was observing a San Diego Christmas boat parade. "I think the Coast Guard has a lot to answer for what happened. I've never seen a boat at such a blazing speed in that area," said one witness. Three adults were also hospitalized in the incident and two other children were treated for minor injuries.

The 24 foot Sea Ray was traveling slowly, at about 2-3 knots, when the 33 foot Coast Guard vessel began bearing down on it. Witnesses estimated the Coast Guard vessel was traveling more than 10 times as fast as the motorboat, at 30 to 40 knots, when the collision occurred. "I thought he was going to turn at some point," the Sea-Ray's operator said. "He came up so fast, I didn't have time to react." A witness on the shoreline at Harbor Island said "it happened in the blink of an eye. I couldn't quite believe it when I heard the big thud."

When rescuers arrived the boy's father could be seen looking in the water with a flashlight saying "How is my son? How is my son?" When the boy's body was found "he already looked limp," said one witness.

The National Transportation Safety Board flew in a team of investigators from Washington, D.C. to investigate the cause of the nighttime boating accident. The 24 foot Sea-Ray had 13 passengers on board when the accident occurred. The Coast Guard vessel had a crew of five on board. All five crewmen have been placed on administrative duties while the investigation is going on.

January 02, 2010

By Rod Sullivan

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Would you jump off a boat moving at 50 mph, at night?

Category: Boating Accidents

Would you jump off an open sport fishing boat moving at 50 mph, at night, in the middle of a Florida bayou? That is just what the FWC believes happened last month in Tom's Bayou near Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Last month a 22 foot Everglades sports fishing boat disappeared from its owner's home in the middle of the night while he was away during the Christmas holidays. When the sun came up in the morning the remains of the boat were found with its hull split open and its foredeck peeled back. Accident reconstructionists determined that it had run into the Tom's Bayou Bridge during the night. The boat is estimated to have a top speed of about 50 mph, and the throttle appeared to be wide open, however there was no sign that an operator had been aboard or that anyone had been injured.

As of today no body has been found, which leads investigators to believe that the operator of the boat jumped over the side of the moving boat, causing it to crash into the unlit pilings of the bridge. No injured boaters turned up a local hospitals.

The story illustrates another point which boaters need to be aware of--if you are boating at night you are susceptible to running into unlit obstacles, including bridges.

October 23, 2009

By Rod Sullivan

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Florida Boater Identification Cards - New Regs Taking Effect

Category: Boating Accidents

Beginning on January 1 of next year, anyone who wants to operate a motorboat with a motor over 10 HP, and who is born after January 1, 1988 (meaning anyone who is less than 21 years old on January 1, 2010), will have to have with them a "Boater Identification Card" (a "BIC") and photo identification. There are some exceptions to the rule. If have a Coast Guard master's license you don't need a BIC and if the boater is "accompanied in the vessel by a person who is exempt" then no BIC is required.

To get the BIC, boaters will have to take an eight-hour boating safety course and pass a written test. Failing to carry a BIC is a non-criminal violation carrying a fine of $50 for the first offense, $250 for a second, and $500 for a third.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been pushing for this type of training for years and they have charts and statistics which seem to show that training reduces the number of accidents. Personally, I doubt the data, and I doubt that a boating safety course is going to reduce the number and severity of boating accidents in Florida. Part of the reason for my skepticism is because the training course doesn't, in my opinion, focus on the real world causes of boating accidents.

The number one cause of boating accidents is DARKNESS. The reason is because moving boats run into anchored boats which are poorly lit. It doesn't matter if the anchored boats belong to fishermen, barge owners, or marine construction companies--people just don't seem to understand the importance of lighting their boats when they are moored or anchored at night.

Since most serious boating accidents happen at night, or when the operator's view of what is ahead is blocked, you would think that nighttime operation would be a big part of the course. However, as I read the 8 page Course Checklist, the word "night" only appeared one time - in the bibliography - and not at all in the course materials. In other words you can take the entire course and no one needs to tell fledgling boaters "if you are operating your boat at night, you are eventually going to hit an unlit anchored object and get hurt." To me, that should be on page 1.

Continue reading "Florida Boater Identification Cards - New Regs Taking Effect"

September 21, 2009

By Rod Sullivan

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"The Ditch" has always been a trouble spot

Category: Boating Accidents

It is not without cause that the 8 miles stretch of intracoastal waterway in Palm Valley is called "The Ditch." It's straight and narrow, and on its eastern shore, docks from adjacent homes jut into the waterway. Referring to an Easter Sunday boating accident that killed five people, "I think that's what you saw here, [the dock] was so close to the channel it didn't give this person any degree of error. Once she strayed out of the channel she was in trouble," said David Roach, executive director of the Florida Inland Navigation District. The District is a Jupiter-based Special State Taxing District which manages Florida's waterways from the Georgia state line south to Miami. "Once you realize you're in trouble, it's too late."

Roach says that the Florida Inland Navigation District has complained for years to the Army Corps of Engineers and other regulatory agencies that docks are too close to the channel, where boaters pass. State law allows docks along the Intracoastal to be built 36 feet from the edge of the navigation channel. Roach says the appropriate buffer would be at least 50 to 65 feet, giving boaters more room and opportunity to prevent an accident. Authorized by the federal River and Harbor Act of 1960, the Navigation District is involved in the construction, maintenance, and operation of Florida's intracoastal waterways and has an annual budget of $73 million. A second Navigation District, the West Coast Inland Navigation District, is responsible for the intracoastal waterway on Florida's West coast. However, all intracoastal construction permitting is handled by the Army Corps of Engineers.

About 36% of Florida boating accidents in 2007 involved boats hitting docks and other stationary objects. The most serious accidents generally happen at night. In its latest annual report, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said 109 accidents involved fixed objects, technically known as "allisions" compared to 194 in which boats were involved in "collisions" with other boats.

September 21, 2009

By Rod Sullivan

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Nighttime Boat Accident Claims five Oilfield Businessmen in Bayou Country

Category: Boating Accidents

Employees of Antill Pipeline Construction Company, of Houma, La. made a gruesome discovery one morning last May. On top of a barge they were using to carry rocks they found the body of a boater. When they looked around they found the bodies of four other men which were still in a boat which was wedged beneath one of the barges.

Accident reconstructionists think that the 24-foot aluminum fishing boat, which was powered with a 300-hp outboard engine, ran into a barge at about 10 o'clock at night in the Falgout Canal between Theriot and Dulac, Louisiana. The Canal is deep in bayou country, south of Houma. The barge was being used to carry rocks used to repair an eroding bank on the canal. The barge is alleged to have been be poorly lit.

The five deceased were all oilfield businessmen. Deceased are Michael Carrere, 43, of Bayou Blue; Rene Gauthier, 59, of Houston; Lawrence Flak, 54, of Conroe, Texas; Carey Meche, 52, of Metairie and Bill Voss, 49, of Katy, Texas.

The men had attended a Dulac crawfish boil and planned to be part of the "Houma Oilman's Fishing Invitational" in Cocodrie that weekend. The tournament raises money for local charities. Donations from the tournament for 2009 totaled $240,594.

Relatives of the deceased boaters say that the barge's owner, Antill Pipeline Construction Company, of Houma, La., failed to properly light the barge the night of the collision. The general manager of Antill, Stephen Champagne, says that the barge was lit.

November 12, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Dolphin Lands in Boat in New Smyrna Beach

Category: Boating Accidents

Last month a 9 foot long, 400 lb bottle-nosed dolphin leapt into a 17-foot open sport fishing boat with four people on board. One of the passengers was knocked unconscious and sent to the hospital with cuts and bruises to her face. "There was blood everywhere" according to one of the victims.

Laura Hall and her boyfriend, Montie Henderson, were taking her visiting parents, Norman and Barbara Howard for a cruise. The Howards were visiting from Mansfield, Ohio.

"We all saw it jump right out of the water, and we're like, 'Oh my God ,are you all right? Are you OK?' It was like really crazy," said David Kop, a fisherman. "I could see that they had a dolphin right on the front of the bow of their boat and it was flapping all over the place," said John Rice, a witness.

The boat was passing beneath a the north causeway in New Smyrna Beach when the accident happened. Norman Howard, 64, said that he didn't see it coming but that "the next thing I knew, a big old fish was on top of me." The tail hitting him felt like punches from a boxer. Richardson was eventually able to roll the dolphin out of the boat. The U.S. Coast Guard was referred 911 calls from witnesses, and reached the boat in Edgewater. Florida.

November 12, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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University of Hawaii Sailor Killed in Sailing Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Even experienced sailors can get hurt and killed in boating accidents. A member of the University of Hawaii Co-ed Sailing Team was killed in a sailing accident about two mile off of Waikiki Beach recently. Peter "PJ" Wenner, 19, a sophomore at the U of H, who is from Los Angeles, drowned when the 18 foot "high-performance skiff" he was sailing capsized. He was trapped underwater when his trapeze harness
got caught on the trampoline rack, holding him under water. He was eventually recovered by a safety boat which was on the scene. He died in the hospital two days later.

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Queen's Harbor Collision Results in Three Fishermen landing in Water

Category: Boating Accidents

A collision between a 48 foot boat and a 22 foot boat carrying three fishermen resulted in the fishermen landing in the water and their boat being sunk. The accident happened last month near Queen's Harbor in Jacksonville. According to Tim Nagy, 41, of Fish Kill, New York, the boats were "going through a tight channel.[when] ... the boats collided." The larger boat "stopped and rescued us."

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Fort Myers Real Estate Broker Drowns in Kayak Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Frank D'Alessandro, 52, was a wealthy and well known Fort Myers real estate mogul who made millions investing in and selling real estate in the once booming market in Southwest Florida. Last month he was kayaking in New Jersey when he drowned. His blood alcohol level was over .26 when his body was recovered.
He had gone to New Jersey to visit his ill mother. He was kayaking alone, something he did for exercise. When he failed to return, a search and rescue operation was begun.
According to an editorial mourning his death in the Naples Daily News D'Allessandro's "name appeared on seemingly every "for sale" or "for lease" sign on property in Fort Myers, and more so lately even in Collier County. He succeeded at making his name nearly synonymous -- also via newspapers and television -- with the region's real estate action."

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Florida's Worst Boating Accident netted drunk driver 85 years

Category: Boating Accidents

It was ten years ago that Stanley Cameron, a divorced father of six, crashed his speedboat into a 31 foot cabin cruiser, killing six people on board. He was intoxicated at the time of the accident. In another 75 years, he was to have been released from prison.
Since his original sentencing, Cameron has gotten his sentence reduced from 85 years to 50 years. He is set to be released in 2057.
The accident occurred in the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale.

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Sarasota Restaurateur Killed in Boating Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

The 49 year old co-owner of two Mexican restaurants in Bradenton and Venice Florida was killed recently in a boating accident off of Bradenton Beach on a recent Sunday afternoon.
Gary Ogden was one of the owners of Mi Pueblo El Restaurante Mexicano and Cantina. He was apparently standing on the bow of a 42 foot boat while the boat was jumping 4-6 foot seas in the Gulf of Mexico. When he was ejected from the boat into the water, the boat struck him, causing severe lacerations to his head. Spectators were kept from the scene when his body was returned to shore.
There were seven other people aboard the boat when the accident happened. The Florida FWS is investigating the cause of the accident.

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Man Ejected from Boat Suffer Hypothermia

Category: Boating Accidents

A man ejected from a boat on the Escambia River last month was taken to Jay Hospital to be treated for hypothermia. He was the lone occupant of a 14 foot aluminum boat when he made a quick turn and was ejected. When FWC officers arrived, they were initially unable to locate him even though his wife, who was on-shore, observed him being ejected and did not see him re-surface. The boater was treated for minor bruises on his hip as well.

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Remembering a 2006 Injury Caused by another Leaping Ray

Category: Boating Accidents

Collisions with flying with flying sturgeon have become almost commonplace on the Suwanee River in recent years. However, a spotted eagle ray did leap into another boat in Broward County in October 2006. In that incident a stringray leapt out of the water into the boat of 81 year old James Bertakis. A foot-long barb from the ray stuck into Bertakis' chest and entered his heart chamber. He lived, but only after several weeks in intensive care. Now, at the age of 83, he has made an almost full recovery.

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Florida DEP Diver Dies in Diving Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Rusty Mason was a 54 year old employee of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas. He died last month while working on a coral reef restoration project in the Dry Tortugas.

Mason, who was a certified dive instructor, was one of seven people working aboard the Key West-based PV (patrol vessel) Peter Gladding, a NOAA vessel. He was working with another diver when he lost consciousness during a 3 to 5 minute decompression stop at about 15 feet below the surface. The other diver, Raul Peña-Lopez, of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, tried to keep Mason alive by giving him air from his own tank, but eventually he had to let Mason go.

When Peña-Lopez returned to the surface, two other divers immediately went down and recovered Mason from the bottom, 100 feet below. The members of the crew of the MV Peter Gladding took turns giving him CPR during the 15-mile boat trip to Fort Jefferson and a 75-mile rescue helicopter flight to the Lower Keys Medical Center near Key West.

Last October the 430 foot long Bahamian registered refrigerated cargo vessel MV Green Chile illegally anchored in the coral reef off of Dry Tortugas. The area is protected under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. The location was declared a no-anchor area by NOAA in 1977 to protect the coral-reef environment there.

Mason graduated from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1976 with a BA in Oceanographic Technology. He moved to the Keys in 1990 to work at the Looe Key Reef Resort as a vessel operator and dive instructor. In 2002, he went to work for the Florida DEP's Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas.

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Accident kills one off Key Largo in Drowning Incident

Category: Boating Accidents

A 69-year-old Miami man died recently while throwing a cast net to collect bait. The accident happened off of Key Largo. Roberto Romero threw the cast net but lost his footing and fell into the water from the 21 foot boat. When he was recovered, he was dead from drowning, even though his friend jumped in to rescue him. The current took him about 300 feet from the boat before a good-sam (maritime lingo for a "Good Samaritan) picked them up.

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Top-Ten Florida Counties for 2007 Boating Accidents

Category: Boating Accidents

Nationwide, there were 3,474 injuries and 710 fatalities from boating-related accidents in 2007. Overall, two-thirds of all fatal boating accident victims drowned and in 80% of the drowning incidents, the boats were less than 20 feet in length.

In Florida there were 668 accidents and 77 boating deaths in 2007. How big a factor was the sex of the operator in boating accidents? Ninety percent of the boaters killed were men. How effective were speed limits in preventing fatalities? Twenty-eight percent of the fatalities happened in manatee zones, no-wake zones, and other "restricted speed" zones. What kinds of boats were involved? Only 5% of the fatalities occurred on sailboats, which is one reason that I am partial to sailing. Twelve percent happened in canoes and rowboats, 31% of the accidents happened on jet skis, and 50% occurred in open motorboats.

Miami-Dade County led the state with 13 deaths. The Florida Keys, ranked No. 1 in the total number of accidents with 35. However, it had only 4 deaths. The Fish and Wildlife Commission ranks counties by the number of accidents, not the number of fatalities, and based upon that measure, the least safest counties in the State are:

10. Collier County (Naples)
9. Brevard County (Melbourne/Titusville)
8. Duval County (Jacksonville)
7. Volusia County (Daytona)
6. Lee County (Fort Myers)
5. Broward County (Fort Lauderdale)
4. Pinellas County (St. Petersburg/Clearwater)
3. Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach)
2. Miami-Dade County (Miami)
1. Monroe County (The Florida Keys)

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Egypt Lake PWC Accident injures 2 teens

Category: Boating Accidents

Egypt Lake is barely even a lake. It sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood barely two miles north of Tampa International Airport. Over the years, it has become a favorite spot for jet skiers to practice wave jumping, sharp turns, and acrobatics, free from motorboat traffic. It was safe, or so it seemed. Last week, James and Benjamin Parker, ages 14 and 13, riding on their jet ski, crashed into a dock which projected into the lake, severely injuring both of them. Some witnesses speculated that the two brothers had tried to pass underneath the dock. It is estimated they doing between 15 and 20 mph. St. Joseph's Hospital was only a few blocks away. Nevertheless, the boys remain in critical condition.

In Florida, operators of jet skis, officially called "personal watercraft" must be at least 14 years old. Operators under 21 must have a boater safety identification card unless they are accompanied by someone over the age of 21, or someone holding a valid card. Operators and passengers must be wearing PFD's, and must only operate during daylight hours, 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

Someone commented that "letting at 13 or 14 year old run a jet ski is sort of like giving them the keys to the Porsche." Perhaps. Like any group of teenagers, some will be mature enough, and well trained enough to safely operate a jet ski. Others, not so much. We want to protect them, at the same time we want them to grow into responsible adults.

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Moving Boats from Sand Bars can Cause Tragic Accidents

Category: Boating Accidents

These two accidents demonstrate why being near a boat while it is getting off a sandbar can be dangerous. In one incident, 21 year old Jimmy Spicer of Palm Harbor was helping to free a boat from Beer Can Island near Clearwater when the engine was started. He was struck in the head by the propeller and died. In a second incident, Ron Marshall of Arkansas was assisting a boater get off a sand bar in Pensacola when the boat operator suddenly put the engine into gear. The rope which Marshall was holding got caught in the propeller and amputated three of his fingers.

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Dolphin Cruise Boat Strikes Destin Bridge

Category: Boating Accidents

The Destin Bridge was struck last month by a 65 foot dolphin cruise boat operating out of Destin Harbor. One passenger aboard the boat was injured, although the injuries appear to be minor. The accident was investigated by both the Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Containership Hits Miami Beach Marina

Category: Boating Accidents

The Panamanian flagged containership M/V Rio Haina lost steering last month as it was traveling through Government Cut in Miami. The 252 foot long vessel was leaving the Port of Miami when it ploughed into the Miami Beach Marina early on Sunday, June 22nd. Two boats docked at the marina were seriously damaged.

June 22, 2008

By Rod Sullivan

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Scott Kalitta killed in Funny Car Crash

Category: Boating Accidents

For many years drag racer Scott Kalitta, 46, was the owner of Great American Marine on Gulfport Boulevard in St. Petersburg. Last month he died in a Funny Car Crash at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in New Jersey. He was a former two time champion of the National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel competition. The back wings of Katilla's dragsters sported the phrases "Great American Marina" and "Spending Scott Kalitta's inheritance tour." He sold the marina to Brunswick Corporation in 2006.

Kalitta's father, Connie Kalitta, was one of drag racing's elder statesmen. He helped found the sport as a spectator event in the 1950s and '60s, building and driving a number of Top Fuel dragsters.

October 03, 2007

By Rod Sullivan

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Retired Palatka Paramedic shot with Stun Gun

Category: Boating Accidents

Mark Fowler, 57, a retired paramedic from the Palatka Fire Department, was 12 miles off Vilano Beach on a diving trip when he was accidentally shot in the stomach by the projectile from a stun gun. The projectile was driven by a charge from a .357 Magnum. Fowler stayed conscious and directed the others on the boat how to treat his wound to keep him alive during the 12 mile trip back to the dock.

After returning to the Vilano boat ramp Fowler was treated by St. Johns Country paramedics and airlifted to Shands hospital. Once there, he was in critical condition and he was put into a drug-induced coma.

October 03, 2007

By Rod Sullivan

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Doctor's Lake Boating Accident at Whitey's Fish Camp

Category: Boating Accidents

A man was severely injured in a boating accident on Doctors Lake when a 16-foot Ranger leaving Whitey's Fish Camp on a fishing tournament hit a manatee sign near the Doctors Lake Bridge. The driver, Arthur Isaac Ferrell, had serious facial injuries and was flown to Shands-Jacksonville Medical Center. A friend had to pull him from the lake and bring him ashore.

October 03, 2007

By Rod Sullivan

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Suwanee Sturgeon Accident Claims Another Boater

Category: Boating Accidents

The resurgence of the Gulf Sturgeon in the Suwanee River has caused another boating accident. This time the victim was a pleasure boat passenger ejected from his boat while the boat was trying to swerve out of the way of one of the jumping fish. Gulf sturgeon migrate into the Suwannee in March to spawn. They stay there until the fall.

The boat was being operated by Brian Norris, 28, of Chiefland, Florida. Roderick Page, 22, was the passenger. They were in a 12-foot aluminum boat near Fowler's Bluff.

Norris was hospitalized in Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Page's body was found by a Levy County dive team.

September 11, 2007

By Rod Sullivan

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Helicopter Crashes with Boat off Sarasota: Is it a maritime case?

Category: Boating Accidents

Earlier today a helicopter was shooting a video for Powerboat magazine when the helicopter hit the boat, killing two people. The question which arises is "is this a maritime case?"

In order for a case to be governed by admiralty and maritime law, three tests have to be met. First, the accident has to occur in a maritime locality. The Gulf of Mexico is part of the navigable waters of the United States and hence the locality test is easily met.

The next test is not quite so easy to apply. There must be a nexus between the activity and a traditional maritime activity. Historically, the operation of an aircraft, by itself, is not a traditional maritime activity. There are exceptions. First, a seaplane while on the water is engaging in a traditional maritime activity. However, an airplane taking off from a runway located adjacent to the navigable waterways is not.

In this case, the fact that the helicopter is filming the operation of a boat, and actually hits the boat, makes it more likely than not that the helicopter is engaging in a traditional maritime activity. Aircraft taking off from the deck of an aircraft carrier are, so this would be similar to that situation.

Finally, the activity must have a potential impact on commercial maritime activities. That test is seldom found to be a bar to maritime jurisdiction.

Why is this question important? Because with maritime jurisdiction comes maritime law and maritime remedies---a minefield for the uninitiated, but a potential boon for the knowledgeable.

Thirdly,

February 02, 2007

By Rod Sullivan

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How Do You Prove Waters Are Not Navigable?

Category: Boating Accidents

I am teaching a particularly bright group of young law students at Florida Coastal School of Law this year. Recently we dicussed my earlier article "Coast Guard, Jurisdictional Creep, and Puzzle Lake" and I asked them how they would prove that a particular body of water was non-navigable. Their answers were remarkably good.

1. Hire a Coast Guard licensed Captain as a marine navigation expert. He could testify that the waterway was not practically usable as a significant means of conducting commercial maritime activities.

2. Hire an hydrologist. He could testify whether the lake was "tidal" and whether "in its customary condition" it was capable of supporting maritime commerce.

Continue reading "How Do You Prove Waters Are Not Navigable?"

February 01, 2007

By Rod Sullivan

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The Coast Guard, Jurisdictional Creep, and Puzzle Lake, Florida

Category: Boating Accidents

"If I can put a toothpick in a body of water, and that toothpick can find its way into the ocean, then the United States Coast Guard has jurisdiction over that body of water."

Coast Guard officer investigating death of Vincent Rutowski
on Puzzle Lake, a virtually land-locked pond, invisible on aerial maps

"...Navigability requires that the body of water be capable of supporting commercial maritime activity...The possibility that the waterway is capable of supporting non-commercial [recreational] maritime activity...does not render the waterway capable of supporting 'commercial trade or travel in the customary modes of travel on water.'" and hence the admiralty courts and Coast Guard have no jurisdiction.

LeBlanc v. Cleveland, 198 F.3d 353 (2nd Cit. 2000)

_______________________________________________________________

Dateline: Seminole, Florida

A battle over the geographical jurisdiction of the United States is shaping up over an airboat accident which occurred on Puzzle Lake near Seminole, Florida involving the death of a 7 year old boy, Vincent Rutkowski. The case points out the existence of something I like to call "jurisdictional creep." Jurisdiction creep is the ever expanding geographic control of the United States by the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers which occurs each time either organization redefines the term "navigable waters" to include water which is clearly not "navigable." Before discussing the Coast Guard's creeping jurisdiction, allow me to give some historical background.

When our country was founded, our Founding Fathers established fairly strict boundaries between what the States controlled, and what was going to be controlled by the new "Federal Government." Founding Fathers like Alexander Hamilton, an admiralty and maritime attorney who grew up in loyalist New York, had little interest in reserving to his brethren in New York any power, knowing that they never truly believed in the patriot cause to begin with. Jefferson and Madison, who grew up in Virginia, had little interest in turning over any sovereignty to a federal government, which was already controlled, at the time of the drafting of the Constitution, by Federalists like John Adams from Massachusetts, and the generally-disliked Hamilton.

While the anti-Federalists won the battle over the Constitution, and won further battles in obtaining passage of the 10th Amendment (powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the people and the states) and 11th Amendment (federal courts have no jurisdiction over private suits against the States), you would never know it by today's standards. Today, federal jurisdiction over every aspect of modern life is simply presumed. It was never intended to be so.

Continue reading "The Coast Guard, Jurisdictional Creep, and Puzzle Lake, Florida"

December 18, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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You Won't Believe this Story: Sailboat Struck by Barge (read what happens next)

Category: Boating Accidents

Picture this. It's 5 a.m. You're on a sailboat alone off the coast of Florida. You go below to wash your face and suddenly you hear the engines of a ship close by. It turns out to be this tug and barge. You climb out of the hatch and astern you see a red light to the left of you and a green light to the right of you, bearing down quickly. What do you do? Read this USCG Press Release.

What happens when the Coast Guard reaches you? They put you in handcuffs, of course.

There is video too.

December 17, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Not Rendering Assistance after a Boating Accident: A Felony in Florida

Category: Boating Accidents

Recently a sailboat operating off of Port Canaveral was struck by a tug and barge. The sailboat was sunk, but its owner, who was the sole person on board, was left without assistance for over five hours. He alleges that the tug and barge knew it hit him, and simply drove away.

In Florida, failing to render assistance, if it results in death, is a crime known as vessel homicide. Operating a boat in a reckless manner is a second degree felony. However, running away without reporting the incident and rendering assistance turns it into a first degree felony.

December 10, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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BUI in Florida: Any BAL over .08 is presumptive

Category: Boating Accidents

In Florida, a vessel operator is presumed to be under the influence if their blood or breath alcohol level is at or above .08. Some states, like Missouri, have a .08 level for operating an automobile, but .10 for boat operation.

What happens if a boat is in an accident and the driver is rendered unconscious? The fact is that the FWC will try to use a blood test, and project backwards to the time of the accident. The problem is that there is no scientific evidence on the rate of alcohol absorbtion of a person who is unconscious. All alcohol absorbtion tables which the State currently uses are based upon conscious subjects.

November 30, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Another Lake County Drowning, the Third in a Week

Category: Boating Accidents

The Florida Fish and Wildlife recovered the body of Gregory Craine, a 54 year old man whose boat capsized in Sunset Lake near Mascotte, Florida earlier this week. Craine of Groveland, Florida was fishing with a friend when the 14-foot boat capsized. The other man was able to swim to shore. Craine disappeared under water. Craine's body was found in the center of the lake 10 feet from where the boat sank.

Last week, two children were killed when the boat their family of five was riding in began taking on water. The bilge pump failed to work. FWC had considered filing charges against the parents because one of the children, who was under age 6, wasn't wearing a life vest. The FWC has decided not to press charge.

November 26, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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How Can I get rid of a Derelict Boat on My Property in Florida?

Category: Boating Accidents

Here is how:

First, look at Section 823.11 of Florida Statutes. It says in part:

(b) When a derelict vessel is docked or grounded at or beached upon private property without the consent of the owner of the property, the owner of the property may remove the vessel at the vessel owner's expense 60 days after compliance with the notice requirements specified in s. 328.17(5). The private property owner may not hinder reasonable efforts by the vessel owner or agent to remove the vessel. Any notice given pursuant to this paragraph shall be presumed delivered when it is deposited with the United States Postal Service, certified, and properly addressed with prepaid postage.

Then look at Section 328.17(5) of Florida Statutes, which requires you to send a letter to the owner by certified mail, post a notice on the boat, and provide notice to anyone else who might have an interest in the boat.

You may then advertise it and sell it. If there are no bidders, it is yours to do with as you wish.

November 22, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Claiming Abandoned Boats in Florida

Category: Boating Accidents

Here is a call I get frequently: Someone abandoned a boat on public proprerty. I think it has value. Can I claim it?

If you find a lost or abandoned vessel ashore, you can claim it by calling your local sheriff's office. You will have to complete a "Found Property Claim".

If the boat is on the water, you may call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-3922.

You will be required to pay a fee to cover the cost of advertising a notice in a local newspaper. In addition, you will need to pay all towing and storage costs, and any other costs associated with removing the vessel.

If the owner does not claim the vessel within 90 days after the report is made, title to the vessel may be transferred to you as the finder. (See 705.104(1), Florida Statutes).

If title to the vessel is transferred to you, you need to contact the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and request an officer complete a vessel inspection. After the inspection is completed, please contact the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to request a new title at: http://www.hsmv.state.fl.us/dmv/faqboat.html.

November 22, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Two Children Dead in Freshwater Sinking

Category: Boating Accidents

Two small children, age 2 and age 8, died when their boat sunk on Lake Yale.

The family of five had gone boating on the lake in their 16 foot boat. When the boat began to sink, the father tried to start the bilge pump, which didn't work. Then 36-year-old Eric Singleton, grabbed his 3-month-old daughter and took about four hours to swim about 300 yards to the shore. He had to hike about a mile before he found a house in Umatilla and called 911.

The mother, Michelle, held onto the bow of the boat with the children as long as she could before the choppy waters and weariness caused her to let go. She said before she lost sight of the children, 8-year-old Eric Jr. was trying to put on his life vest.

Rescuers found the children's mother, Michelle, treading water about 200 yards from the sunken boat. She had been in the water for about five hours. The two children were not found, although two child sized life preservers were.

The law requires children under 6 to be wearing life preservers while a boat is moving. The FWC is considering charging the parents for failing to have the life preservers on their children. They've had enough tragedy. Leave them alone, please.

November 22, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Uncertified Diver Dies in Open Water Dive off New Port Richey

Category: Boating Accidents

The Coast Guard searched for 3 days and over 1600 square miles. The body of 28-year-old Ashley Mauldin was never found.

Ashely Mauldin who was originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, but lived in Spring Hill with her husband, had never before been on a open water scuba dive. She and her husband, and another couple took the 23-foot My Millie II 14 miles west of New Port Richey to a spot known as the military tanks. While she and another diver, Sharon Hucks, were making a 40 minute dive to 28 feet, looking for seashells, they lost sight of one another during the ascent. She is believed to have blacked out.

Lt. Roberts Butts, US Coast Guard Senior Investigator, said "This is an unfortunate accident that should have never happened, if the person followed and got certified as a diver, and if they had all observed some responsibility, I believe this could have been prevented.

November 22, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Lake County Man sinks Two Boats in Haynes Creek

Category: Boating Accidents

A Tavares man was arrested on his fourth BUI charge after he sunk two boats in Haynes Creek, his own and another with which his boat collided. The Eustis Fire Department rescued him and another boater. Richard Wayne Boldrey, 58, of Tavares told the FWC that he didn't see the other boat until they collided. The FWC gave him a field sobriety test, which he failed. He was arrested and then released two days later on a $10,500 bond.

November 21, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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WEGO Kite Tube, "The Next Generation of Action Towable." Kills Two, and Injures 39 others

Category: Boating Accidents

It sounded like a good idea at the time. Sportsstuff.com describes the Wego Kite Tube as "the next generation of action towable" but its actual use in the field has shown it to be dangerous to consumers, causing 2 deaths and 39 known injuries. The kite tube is towed behind a motorboat. When the boat and tube attain adequate speed, the tube lifts into the air, with the passenger on top. The warning on the product tells consumers not to fly any higher than they are willing to fall, but misuse is forseeable, and many have been injured.

Here is the advertisement for the the Wego Kite Tube,

Wego Kite Tube

10ft diameter flying tube

Take flight with the WEGO KITE TUBE! The next generation of action towable is here, taking you to a whole new level of excitement! Whip across the water like a deck tube, or fly through the air like a bird! Experience the thrill of flight as you rise above the water, reaching incredible heights, leaving nothing but adrenaline in your wake! The level of extreme sport has been raised with the WEGO KITE TUBE. Anything else is beneath it...
Model 53-5000 Sug. Retail: $599.95

KITE TUBE WITHDRAWN FROM MARKET - CLICK HERE FOR INFO

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission:

In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Sportsstuff, Inc., of Omaha, Nebraska is voluntarily recalling about 19,000 Wego Kite Tubes.

CPSC staff is aware of 39 injury incidents with 29 of those resulting in medical treatment. Those injuries include a broken neck, punctured lung, chest and back injuries and facial injuries. Sportsstuff has received reports of two deaths in the United States and a variety of serious injuries. Sportsstuff has been unable to determine the cause of the incidents. Nevertheless, the company has withdrawn the kite tube from the market and is undertaking this voluntary recall out of an abundance of caution.

The Sportsstuff Wego Kite Tube is a 10-foot-wide, circular, yellow inflatable watercraft designed to be towed behind a power boat. A rider in the tube becomes airborne by pulling on handles attached to the floor of the tube. Model 53-5000 is printed on the tube near the product valve. The floor of the tube has black caution warning stripes. The cover for the product bears a skull and crossbones and the statement "Never Kite higher than you are willing to fall." The tubes were imported and sold through marine distributors, mail order catalogs, and various retailers from approximately October 1, 2005 to July 11, 2006 for about $500 to $600.

Consumers should immediately stop using the kite tubes and contact Sportsstuff at (866) 831-5524 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST Monday through Friday to learn how to obtain free replacement products. Consumers can also visit the firm's Web site at www.sportsstuff.com for more information.

November 01, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Darkness nearly Claims Life of Clearwater Beach Developer---When will the government begin lighting its obstructions?

Category: Boating Accidents

In the past five years 44 year old Roland Rogers of Clearwater Beach gotten rich. He has built or partnered in about 20 developments on Clearwater Beach and has acquired land for two planned four-star hotels. Life is good.

That life almost came to an end last Saturday, due in large part to the failure of the City of Clearwater to light its jetty.

It was a moonless Clearwater night, and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were flat and glassy. "It's like I often tell people, it's paradise here, even after the sun goes down."

It was late at night, about 1:45 a.m. when Rogers was returning from fishing in the Gulf. As he approached Clearwater Pass at about 25 mph, he hit the rock jetty. First, he was thrown into the center console of the boat. The center console ripped free and he was hurtled 35 feet through the air. He landed on the rocks, but he never lost consciousness.

Lying on the rocks he reached into his pocket, took out his still working cell phone, and dialed 911. Clearwater Fire Department rescue workers and the United States Coast Guard responded, loading him into an inflatable Coast Guard boat. He was taken to Morton Plant Hospital where they have him 15 stitches on his forehead and another 30 on his knee.

So who's at fault? As I've said in Court many times (and have been awarded $19.5 million in damages in one case), and in this blog, if you own or are responsible for an obstruction on or near a waterway, you need to light it and light it well. There may not be a regulation to light it. You may not be cited if you don't, but you are going to hurt somebody.

October 16, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Inmates on Jet Skis? Camden County Still has no Answers

Category: Boating Accidents

Camden County Commissioners have asked for a grand jury to investigate why two inmates from the Brunswick Correctional Facility were operating jet skis on the Crooked River when one of them crashed into a dock, requiring a trip to the hospital.

Camden County Sheriff Bill Smith says that he left instructions for the jet skis to be pulled from the water. That was the last thing he heard about until news of the accident broke.

While the accident deserves mention under the category "News of the Weird," and conjures up images of inmates lounging on the beach at "Club Med--Crooked River," the accident probably has a perfectly sound explanation. Trustees are frequently assigned to do work that needs doing, but that guards and police officers are too busy to do. If the Sheriff's Department permitted two non-violent trustees to move the jet skis from one location to another, leaving guards to do their job, I'm okay with that. The only real question I have is why the Sheriff's Office needs jet skis in the first place?

October 16, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Sea Tow Wrongly Implicated in Columbus Weekend Boating Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

The Miami Herald incorrectly reported that the boat which was towing the boat on which James Noel-Pou and Monica Burguera were killed was operated by Sea Tow. It turns out that Sea Tow had simply reported to the scene after hearing of the accident over the marine band radio. When the Miami Herald reporter spotted it, and heard that the other two boats had been in tow when the accident happened, the reporter assumed that the Sea Tow vessel had been towing the other two boats. In fact, the towing boat was operated by Club Nautico of Miami Beach.

More details have emerged about the accident. The Columbus Day Regatta was going on on Biscayne Bay. When it was over, boat were jockeying for position in the dark, trying to get under the William Powell bridge. The 35 foot Intrepid, seeing its chance to pass underneath the bridge, was running at high speed when it hit a wake, went airborne, and went over the stern of the boat on which James Noel-Pou and Monica Burguera were riding in tow.

October 16, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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29 People Involved in Miami Beach Boating Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Over the Columbus Day weekend, 29 people were involved in a single Miami Beach boating accident which killed two people and injured seven others. Here's how it happened.

Club Nautico at the Miami Beach Marina is one of the few places on Miami's South Beach where tourists can rent power boats. That weekend it had rented numerous boats to a group of friends, including a 22 foot Sea Ray which it had rented to James Noel Pou, a handsome, square-jawed 23 year old from Doral, and Monica Burguera, a slim raven haired beauty of 20 from Miami. When their boat broke down in Miami's Biscayne Bay, Club Nautico sent out another boat, operated by a 16 year old, to tow them in.

On the way in they picked up a second disabled boat, a Bayliner with seven people on board, and began to tow it at well. With one boat towing, and two boat in tow, progress was slow and darkness set in. The boats lacked proper lighting. As they were approaching the Rickenbacker Causeway, a 32 foot Intrepid, traveling at high speed, tried to cut in between the towing boat and the first disabled boat. The Intrepid was traveling so fast that it became airborne and its propellers hit both Pou and Burguera in their heads, killing them instantly. It then hit the second towed boat, injuring its seven passengers and causing one to suffer a heart attack. He remains in critical condition.

This being Miami, naturally lawsuits have been filed. The allegations are that the 16 year old who was operating the towing boat was unlicensed, had been drinking, and failed to carry proper lights on the two boats he was towing. Those charges are more easily made than they are to make stick.

For example, under admiralty law it is up to the vessel being towed to properly prepare itself for towing. Should it be different in the case of recreational vessels? If admiralty law is applied, and Pou and Burguera didn't turn their lights on, they bear part of the responsibility. If the boat wasn't equipped with running lights, or they didn't work, that is a different story. Had the 16 year old which Club Nautico send out been drinking? That may or may not be relevant. The question is did his operation of the towing boat cause or contribute to the 32 foot Intrepid running into them? If there is no causal connection between the drinking and the accident, it may not even come into evidence. This case is no slam dunk against Club Nautico, no matter how many press conferences the Plaintiff's attorneys call.

This case has all the elements of a good Plaintiff's case. Whether it results in a big Plaintiff's verdict at the end of the day depends a lot upon the skill of the attorneys and the quality of experts they hire. I learned long ago that cases that appear good at the outset can get bad quickly if you allow yourself to become overconfident.

October 02, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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It pays to Stay with the Boat

Category: Boating Accidents

Clinton Daughtry 27, Mike Vitko, 27, John Hodgkiss, 22, and Travis Britt, 22 and Chip Bloomer, 40 sent to sea Saturday in a 17 foot boat. When the boat capsized, only Bloomer stayed with the boat. They other four younger men donned life vests and tried to swim for shore.

Bloomer was rescued at 6:45 on Saturday night. The other four weren't found until early Sunday morning. They suffered from hypothermia and had gotten separated. Truthfully, they were lucky.

I started going to sea 34 years ago. I've seen it over and over again. No matter how bad things get, stay with the boat. Your chances of survival and rescue are much better.

September 29, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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When does a Wrongful Death Statute apply in a Maritime Death Case

Category: Boating Accidents

The Supreme Court in Yamaha Motor Corp, U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 189 (1996) divided the potential decedents in maritime wrongful death cases into three categories: seamen, maritime workers, and non-seamen. There are apparently two reasons why the Supreme Court has made that distinction. The first is because of its ruling in Sea-Land Services, Inc. v. Gaudet, 414 U.S. 573, 39 L. Ed. 2d 9, 94 S. Ct. 806 (1974), which asserted that a dependent spouse of a longshoreman could recover damages for loss of society, and the second is because the LHWCA prohibits causes of action against a vessel for unseaworthiness.

So, when a death occurs on territorial waters, when does the State's wrongful death act apply? It is a tough, and not a consistently answered question.

Continue reading "When does a Wrongful Death Statute apply in a Maritime Death Case"

September 29, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Darkness Claims more victims in South Venice Boating Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

On September 27, 2006 two boats collided head-on in the Intracoastal Waterway near the South Venice boat ramp because one of them was unlit. The unlit boat was a 23-foot Allmond power boat operated by Michael Mackenzie of Venice. Mackenzie's wife, Patricia, was in critical condition. There were three other passengers on board. The other boat was a 19-foot Polar driven by Reid Pettit, who had two passengers aboard.

John Allmond stopped making boats in 1984. In older boats the wiring sometimes deteriorates, making the lighting unreliable. The 23 foot is likely a boat with a forward cabin and raised operating station, which sometimes impairs visibility of other boats. The 19 foot Polar is likely a open sport fishing boat worth about $19,000.

The absence of working lighting is one of those issues which makes limitation of liability hard to sustain. In order to prevail in a limitation case it is necessary to show that the boat was seaworthy when it left the dock and that the cause of the accident was outside of the privity and knowledge of the owner.

August 30, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Two Injured in Destin Boating Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

According to the Chipley Bugle, on August 18, Officer Shelby Williams responded to a boating accident in Destin Pass. The accident occurred due to the vessel's speed in very choppy water. Two occupants were ejected when the vessel became airborne in the choppy water. One of the occupants was airlifted to Sacred Heart Hospital with possible head injuries. The operator of the vessel was charged with reckless operation.

August 30, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Boating Under the Influence of Alcohol: What are the penalties in Florida?

Category: Boating Accidents

If there are no extenuating circumstances, a first time offender of the BUI statute in Florida can expect to get a $250 fine plus $250 in court costs, 50 hours of community service, a substance abuse course, and six months probation.

If your blood alcohol level is over 2.0, it can be substantially worse.

Here is the Florida Statute prescribing penalties.

July 27, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Ethan Allen sinks because Americans are too Heavy

Category: Boating Accidents

I don't mean to make light of the tragedy aboard the Ethan Allen on Lake George, but part of the problem that resulted in the boat having poor stability is that its stability and trim calculations were used assuming that the average passenger would weigh 140 lbs. In fact, the average passenger weighed 178 lbs or 27% more.

The boat was built in 1966 at a time when most Americans were trimmer than they are now. Adding to the problem was the fact that a canopy had been added in 1979 and reinforced in 1989. The canopy, being up high, made the boat "tender" or more likely to turn over.

Adding together the weight of canopy, and the added weight of the passengers, the boat should have been certified for only 14 passengers. It was carrying 47. Twenty of them died.

July 17, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Sun Sentinel reports push to Require PFD's in Florida

Category: Boating Accidents

The Florida Sun Sentinel reports that thirty of Florida's 81 boating deaths in 2005 resulted from people tumbling out of boats and drowning, a 53 percent increase from the previous year. Sixteen deaths were attributed to crashes with other boats or fixed objects. What the Sun Sentinel failed to report was that 38 of the fatal accidents occurred in lakes, ponds, rivers and creeks while only 25 occurred in the Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. I find that statistic to be alarming.

A 2004 BoatU.S. survey of almost 10,000 boaters showed 86 percent oppose mandatory life jacket requirements.

July 14, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Product defect causes flying bridge to come loose-2 people hospitalized

Category: Boating Accidents

On the 4th of July at about 8:30 p.m. two people were injured in Santa Rosa Sound when the flying bridge on a 24 foot fishing boat with five people on board separated while it was making a turn. The two people on the flybridge hospitalized. FWC Officer Keith Clark is investigating the accident.

July 14, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Did Brian Wallschlaeger Really Float for 24 hours?

Category: Boating Accidents

Brian Wallschlaeger is in the hospital now, but I'll be interested to hear what he has to say when he finally starts telling the story of his survival for 24 hours at sea after he was knocked from his sailboat off of New Smyrna Beach on Tuesday, March 11, 2006.

The most plausible story is that even though he was knocked into the water, he was able to hold on to the boat until he got near shore, and then he swam the rest of the way. It is a remarkable feet in any event. 24 hours in the water brings on hypothermia, exhaustion, and dehydration. Only the toughest of men could survive it.

As I've said in this blog before, most swimmers can only tread water in the ocean for about 30 minutes before becoming exhausted. It's tougher than treading water in a pool. Only pilots and military personnel trained in "bobbing" and other water survival techniques (which I recommend everyone learn) who are able to extend their survival times. However, 24 hours is the outer limits, and even that takes an extraordinary will to live.

As I've also said many times, if you a thrown from your boat, or your boat overturns, stay with the boat even if you think you can swim to shore. If Brian Wallschlaeger did say with his boat, it illustrates why that advice holds true.

July 12, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Clemson offensive guard May Face Charges in Boating Death

Category: Boating Accidents

Clemson University senior Roman Fry was involved in a fatal boating accident over the weekend when his jet ski ran into Clemson men's track assistant coach Jarrett Foster, 32. The men were on Lake Keowee near Greenville, South Carolina.

Last Saturday evening Foster was riding as a passenger on a jet ski operated by another Clemson football player, Nathan Bennett, who is also an offensive guard. Roman Fry was following them close behind when the leading jet ski rolled over. Fry was unable to stop and his jet ski struck Foster in the head. He was pronounced dead that evening.

Continue reading "Clemson offensive guard May Face Charges in Boating Death"

July 11, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Coast Guard refuses to release Videotape

Category: Boating Accidents

The Coast Guard is refusing to release the videotape of the chase which resulted in the death of a 243 year old Cuban woman attempting to illegally enter the United States. Amay Machado Gonzalez was one of 31 passengers on the speed boat which was crossing the Florida Straights when it was intercepted by a Coast Guard "go-fast" boat. The Coast Guard boat rammed the speed boat loaded with Cubans approximately four times, causing Machado to suffer a head injury which eventually killed her. The coroner found umerous trauma injuries on her extremities, chest, back and head, said Dr. Michael Hunter, Monroe County medical examiner. The boat was finally stopped when the Coast Guard fire two shots into the boat's engine.

Marchado's husband, Agustin Uralde, 24, is being held on the Coast Guard cutter in Key West.

July 10, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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How Long can you Tread Water? About 30 minutes is the max

Category: Boating Accidents

There is a lot to be learned from a July 4th boating accident in Santa Rosa Sound near Gulf Breeze.

Have you ever heard of "bobbing?' Bobbing is a water survival technique taught to Navy pilots which enables them to survive in the water for an extended period of time without tiring out. Some pilots have been known to be able to bob for up to 24 hours. I've personally gone over an hour, without any adverse effects (except boredom).

Many people think that because they can swim or tread water, that they can survive in the water until a rescuer comes. Unfortunately, they are wrong. An accident in Santa Rosa Sound near Gulf Breeze Florida shows that the most that people can tread water is about 30 minutes before they tire out and slip below the surface.

Five people were aboard the 14 foot boat that capsized when a larger boat passed them, throwing a wake which flipped the boat over. There were only two PFD's readily available.

"We didn't even see it coming," said Alvin Myles Lewis, 22, a passenger and friend of boat owner Jerry Stewart who was one of the deceased.

Thirty minutes later, Lewis would be rescued along with the only two passengers wearing life vests -- the boat owner's son, 10-year-old Jerreld Stewart, and Rofiesha Watts, 22.

Boat owner Jerry Stewart, 44, and Ladarell Saunders, 26, -- Watts' boyfriend -- disappeared into the water. Their bodies were found late Wednesday.

Lewis said Stewart was "like a second father to me. I've known Jerry since I was 2 years old."

Lewis said he heard Jerry Stewart calling for him right after the boat flipped. He swam over to try to help him stay afloat, but Stewart panicked and started to pull him down. Lewis had to find another way to help.

"I was swimming around trying to find a life vest for him," he said. "I was trying to tell everyone to just relax, but they were panicking." Lewis said he didn't find a vest but came across a paddle in the water.

"I was waving the paddle in the sky, hoping somebody would stop," he said.

It was 30 minutes before charter boat captain Jerry Andrews and his wife, out for a day of recreational boating, spotted them and stopped to help, Lewis said.

"So many boats passed us by," he said. "I owe my life to (Jerry Andrews)."

It was about this time that Lewis lost sight of Stewart and Saunders.

"I saw Jerry and (Ladarell) right up until the boat came up," he said. "I wish I could have done more for Jerry. He meant the world to me."

July 10, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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2006 May be Record Year for Boating Fatalities in Florida

Category: Boating Accidents

2005 was a record year in Florida for boating fatalities with 81. As of the July 4th weekend, Florida had had 40 deaths so far, with the summer just getting underway.

July 10, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Utah tourist, Hyo H. Copinga, dies in SCUBA accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Hyo H. Copinga, 59, died off Palm Beach, Florida as a result of an accident while SCUBA diving on July 6, 2006. He was part of a group of 10, including his two daughters, who took a commercial dive boat to Flower Patches reef. The group went down for a 45-minute dive about a mile off the coast in 60 feet of water but Copinga never resurfaced. Divers from another boat found Copinga under water several hours later, about 4 p.m. Coast Guard rescuers tried to resuscitate him, but he was pronounced dead at the Riviera Beach marina.

Investigators were looking into whether an equipment malfunction or a lightning strike in the area contributed to Copinga's death. He was vacationing with his wife, Charlotte, and daughters, authorities said.

July 07, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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PFD's should be out and available, Rescuer tells of finding three in Santa Rosa Sound

Category: Boating Accidents

If you've ever been on the open ocean, truly been there, you must know what the survivors of the July 4th boat capsizing felt like.

"They were just panicked," said Jerry Andrews, the charter boat captain who rescued the three. "They were out of breath and just about out of energy." "The three looked like they had swallowed gallons of salt water."
"When our boat got close enough, they got an adrenaline rush or something," he said. "They were practically walking on water trying to get in."

Two others died in the accident which they say was caused by the wake of a passing boat. There apparently were only 2 PFD's which floated free as the boat went down, leaving the three men without anything to hold onto. Two of them died.

The lesson? Having the life preservers tucked in the forecastle, or underneath the seats may not be good enough. Nobody wants to wear them, but if they were at least in the open, they would have been available when the boat suddenly capsized.


July 07, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Bodies of Ladarell Saunders and Jerry Stewart recovered near Gulf Breeze

Category: Boating Accidents

The body of Ladarell Saunders, 26, was found near Naval Live Oaks, a portion of the Gulf Islands National Seashore east of Gulf Breeze. The body of Jerry Stewart, 44, was found south and east of where Saunders was found. Jerry Andrews, a charter boat captain, rescued three others at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, shortly after their 14-foot boat east of the Bob Sikes Bridge. The three survivers are Jerreld Stewart, 10, son of Jerry Steward, Rofiesha Watts, 22, Saunders' girlfriend, and Alvin Myles Lewis, 22, a friend.

July 06, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Ladarell Saunders and Jerry Stewart presumed dead in Santa Rosa Sound near Gulf Breeze, Florida

Category: Boating Accidents

Two Pensacola men are missing. Ladarell Saunders, 26, and Jerry Stewart, 44, were in a 14 foot boat which capsized on July 4th. Three other people were rescued by a passing boater around 5:30 p.m. The group of five had been picnicking nearby on Gulf Islands National Seashore.

They survivors said that the wake from a larger vessel came by and swamped their smaller boat, sinking it.

July 06, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Darkness Claims another life, Mark Baxter killed in boating accident

Category: Boating Accidents

I've said it many times, and I'll have to say it again, darkness is the biggest killer on the waters. Mark Baxter of Atlanta Georgia was killed when another boat hit is pontoon boat after dark on Lake Sinclair in Georgia over the weekend. The collision took place about 10:30 p.m., within sight of Little River Park and its marina, and the Ga. 441 bridge. The lake sits between Putnam and Hancock counties.

Lights on the shore and on adjacent highways wash out the lights from vessels on a lake at night, making the boats virtually invisible. Ignorance is bliss, and boaters, thinking that there is nothing ahead, plow on at high speeds.

Invariably the authorities will attribute the accident to alcohol, but darkness is the real killer on the waters.

July 06, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Jonathan Adams struck by boat propeller, broken leg

Category: Boating Accidents

Two men were thrown from their flats boat on the after of July 1 when, they say, their boat hit the wake of another boat. The operator of the boatwas Brent Brocks, 36, and his passenger was Jonathan Adams, 36. Both are from Naples, Florida. Adams was trying to climb back into the boat when the propeller struck his leg, apparently breaking the bone.

June 30, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Girl Struck by Propeller in Hilliard, Florida-Hailey Kilpatrick , 4

Category: Boating Accidents

Hailey Kilpatrick, a 4 year old girl from Yulee, Florida, was struck by a boat propeller on Friday evening, June 23 while swimming at the St. Marys River Fish Camp at Scotts Landing at 28506 Scott's Landing Rd in Hilliard, Florida. The boat which struck her was a 14 ft John boat which had just been launched from the boat ramp. She was lifeflighted to Shands Jacksonville for injuries to her leg. She has now been released.

June 28, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Second Death in Lake Louise Boating Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Langly Brown, Jr., who was taken to the Orlando Regional Medical Center after a boating accident on Lake Louise on June 23rd, has died.

The Orlando Sentinel had the following to say about the accident:

Continue reading "Second Death in Lake Louise Boating Accident"

June 28, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Scott Michael Driver charged with Homicide of Edward Clark in Boating Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

In an unusual turn of events, Scott Michael Driver, 30 of the 8600 block of Madison Avenue in Jacksonville has been charged with homicide in the death of Edward Clark over Easter weekend.

A 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 15, 2006 Driver took his friends Edward and Lucilla "Mary" Clark aboard his 10 foot aluminum boat for a trip to the Jacksonville Landing. They launched from Madison Avenue into the Ribault River, and then proceeded out the Trout River into the St. Johns. But they encountered rough weather in the St. John's River where the boat capsized near Lions Club park on Richard Denby Gatlin Road in Arlington. Driver and Lucilla Clark were able to grab life vests and swim to shore in "an hour or two" but they lost sight of Edward Clark, 46, in the darkness. When last seen he was trying to save the family dog. His body was found a week later. The dog also died in the accident.

Continue reading "Scott Michael Driver charged with Homicide of Edward Clark in Boating Accident"

June 27, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Apparent heart attack claims life of Evelyn Eckloff, 66

Category: Boating Accidents

Evelyn Eckloff and her husband were boating in Porterfield Lake in Humboldt Township, Michigan over the weekend when their 12 foot aluminum boat overturned. The two of them were able to swim about 100 yards to the shore but Mrs. Eckloff died shortly thereafter of an apparent heart attack.

June 27, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Johnna Snow, 37, of Paducah and one other killed in Kentucky Boating accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Two people were killed and three others were injured when a fishing boat allided with a rock wall at 0320 (3:20 a.m.) on Lake Barkley in southwestern Kentucky on Thursday, June 22, 2006.

The wall was a half mile from the Lake Barkley State Park marina in Trigg County. The boat was carrying five people when it hit the wall.

Darkness, again, was the primary cause of the accident.

June 27, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Wayne Allen Cross of Bristol dead in Late Night Hit and Run

Category: Boating Accidents

Tennessee authorities report that Wayne Allen Cross of Bristol, Tennessee died after his boat was hit at about 1 am on Sunday, June 25th, 2006. Tennessee wildlife officer Clint Smith said another man was seriously injured.

It just goes to show that darkness is the biggest killer on the waters. What you can't see can kill you.

June 26, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Langley Brown III, 39, dead and Langly Brown, 62, his father, injured in Boating accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Proving again that Florida's freshwater lakes are more dangerous to boaters than Florida's extensive coastline, two bass boats, each with two people on board, collided last Friday, June 23 on Lake Louise near Windermere in Orange County, Florida, killing one person and injuring another. Lake Louise is 15 miles southwest of downtown Orlando, nestled between Golden Bear Club at Keene's Point on its south, and bordered on its north and east sides by the Isleworth Golf and Country Club. It is part of the Butler Chain of lakes, some of Florida's classic largemouth bass and blugill waters. The lake is 3/4 mile long and a 1/4 th of a mile across with two small islands in the middle. To the north of the lake is Lake Butler and to the south is Lake Tibet.

The deceased was Langly Brown III, 39, from Clermont, Florida. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His father, Langly Brown, Jr. was taken to the Orlando Regional Medical Center.

"It actually looks like one of the boats was rounding a corner and they were close to the perimeter of the land area," Orange County sheriff's spokeswoman Barbara Miller said. "It's a blind bend, and it is wide open," boater Robert Patterson said. "If the one boater is not responding to the boating rules and staying in his side of the lane and the other guy is too tight, they will collide." Another boater said he has seen several close calls in the same area.

June 22, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Willie Thornton, 20, of West Palm Beach dies in Airboat Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Here is a general rule to remember whether one is boating or airboating---it is usually safer to stay with the boat after an accident than to leave and try to make it to safety yourself.

On June 16 Thornton went airboating in the Everglades. When his boat broke down, instead of waiting for help, he decided to try to walk out. The sawgrass was over 12-foot-high, the weather was hot, and the twenty year old died, probably from exposure. He was missing for more than a day when a family member found his body.

I can't tell you how many cases I've handled where someone, after a boating accident, has decided that they are strong enough to swim to shore, swim to a passing boat, or otherwise leave their disabled vessel. In most cases, their bodies are never found.

One case was featured in Reader's Digest. A long line fishing boat was struck at night by a waterspout off the coast of Florida. Four fishermen, who were asleep at the time, found themselves on a sinking boat. They had no time to load up the life raft with fresh water. The boat sank. When the sun rose, they had no way to hydrate themselves.

The Captain, feeling responsible for the other three, saw a passing sailboat. They couldn't get the attention of the crew of the sailboat so the Captain decided to try and swim to it. He was never heard from again.

The other three became so parched, that one of them drank seawater. He died shortly thereafter. The high salt content of seawater causes the blood to turn to sludge. Death is painful, but it eventually comes. http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/drinkseawater.htmlThen there were two.

Finally, one of the remaining two gave up, intentionally slipped off the raft into the water, sank, and was never found again. What happened to the last man? An hour later he was rescued.

The lesson: Stay with the boat, don't drink seawater, and never give up hope!

June 21, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Joanna Stapff, 24, and world wakeboard champion Danny Hampson, 17 recovering from boating accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Joanna Stapff is a 24 year old resident of Bermuda who was an art and communications student at the University of Miami until she was thrown from a boat wakeboarder last month. Apparently she was in the boat when it veered into mangroves and struck a tree. According to her father, Kurt Stapff, "She was in a boat and it apparently hit a tree and she was thrown overboard. She was lucky not to break her back. She did break several ribs and her lung collapsed."

She had seven broken ribs, a lacerated liver and a punctured lung.The other passenger was world wakeboard champion Danny Hampson, 17, who suffered a broken neck. After the accident she was on a respirator to help her breathe for about ten days and in intensive care for almost a month.

She has left hospital now and is recovering at home.

Five people were aboard the boat, but Stapff and Hampson were the only ones injured. The boat's operator, a 17 year old from Tavernier, Florida, was charged with operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol.

The 18-foot ActionCraft left Whale Harbor with the driver and four passengers, including Ms Stapff and Mr. Hampson, just before sunset on Mother's Day, May 14. The accident report stated the boat was approaching a creek through a narrow cut when the driver swerved left to avoid an object in the water, then quickly corrected sharply to the right, causing a passenger to fall into him. This apparently caused him to lose control. The boat travelled about 20 yards along the edge of the mangroves until an overhanging branch snagged the poling platform, causing the boat to hit the mangroves. Ms Stapff was ejected from the boat, while Mr. Hampson fell backwards and hit the back of his head on the deck.

This is the type of case which many non-maritime lawyers think that they can handle without the assistance of a maritime lawyer, but both sides need maritime counsel. This case is full of issues concerning limitation of liability, secondary impact and joint and several liabilty which a non-maritime lawyer should not try to handle alone. To do so is a disservice to the client, and creates the risk of a malpractice situation. (See for example Mink v. Genmar Industries where a quad injured in a boating accident lost his case because maritime counsel was not associated in until it was too late).

June 20, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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3 men stranded in Everglades after airboat flips

Category: Boating Accidents

Three men were stranded in the Florida Everglades one mile south of Alligator Alley at mile marker 44 last night after their airboat flipped. One of the men was struck in the rear by the propeller in the accident.

They were rescued by members of the Broward County Sherriff's office.

June 20, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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2 year old killed when propeller severs leg in Daytona boating accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Another argument for propeller guards arose over the weekend. A 2 year old boy, Hadi Zulfiqar, was sitting with his 3-year-old brother on the back of an 18-foot motorboat when he fell off the back of the boat and onto the propeller. The accident occurred on the Halifax River in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Boat and engine manufacturers have argued for years that propeller guards will adversely affect the handling characteristics of motorboat propellers, but commercial vessels have developed and used shrouds like Kort nozzles for over 25 years to improve the maneuverability of some marine propellers.

The manufacturers have been assisted by the Coast Guard in resisting the effort to require boats to have propeller guards on them. For years manufacturers have argued that since the Coast Guard considered and rejected the use of propeller guards, they cannot be held to the standard of making them available on their boats.

However, for just as many years boat manufacturers have offered kill switches on their engines as an option, even though they are not required by the Coast Guard. Some manufacturers have reported that even though they have never sold a kill switch, they continue to offer them for sale so that they can assert as a defense in an accident that the boater "didn't buy our kill switch" which would have prevented the accident.

June 19, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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William Baldwin and Wayne Sanchez injured in Hernando Beach Boating Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

What can happen if you run aground at high speed? Two men who were taken by air ambulance to Tampa General Hospital last Friday found out. They had arm, leg and facial injuries when their boat ran aground and overturned.

William Michael Baldwin (the driver), 51, of 3335 Minnow Creek Drive, Hernando Beach and , Wayne Manuel Sanchez, 55 (a passenger), of 3336 Mangrove Drive, Hernando Beach were heading out into the Gulf of Mexico when they hit a spoil area and lost control of their 22-foot boat.

June 19, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Polk County Florida has Florida's Highest Rate of Boating Deaths

Category: Boating Accidents

One would think that perhaps Miami or Key West would have Florida's highest rate of boating fatalities, but they would be wrong. A totally landlocked county, which has over 700 lakes (and Cypress Gardens) in it, has Florida's highest per capita rate of boating deaths----Polk County---located Southwest of Orlando and due East of Tampa holds that honor.

The reason that their rate of fatalities is so high is because fresh water lakes are preceived to be safer than the ocean and therefor people take fewer precautions. "Men fish alone and fall overboard. Women tumble off the bow of a moving boat. Two or three passengers are thrown from a small johnboat that capsizes," says Lt. Hugh Taylor, head of the Polk County Sheriff's Special Operations Section, which includes the marine unit.

June 19, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Jemmer Steher from Australia injured in Jet Ski accident off Madeira Beach, David Carr of Reddington Beach, arrested for BUI

Category: Boating Accidents

The rider of a jet ski, Jemma Steher of Australia, was knocked off her PWC and into the water when a boat operated by David Carr ran into her. Another boater pulled Steher out of the water. She is in stable condition at Bayfront Medical Center.

David Carr of Reddington Beach was arrested and charged with one count of boating under the influence of alcohol and one count of reckless operation of a vessel after his boat ran into a jet ski in Tampa Bay.

June 15, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Details still murky in deaths of Richard Hostutler and James Smith off Egmont Key

Category: Boating Accidents

The details of an accident which caused two deaths last weekend are still murky. Richard Hostutler of Plant City and James Smith of Valrico apparently were out off Egmont Key, west of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on a 21-foot Mako when bad weather suddenly broke out causing Hostutler's wife to fall overboard. He went into the water after her.

Smith took over driving the boat but then he too went in to assist in the rescue. Passers-by in another boat saw the woman remaining in the boat, presumably Mrs. Smith, yelling for help. Other boats pulled the three bodies out of the water, presumably Mr and Mrs Hostutler and Mr. Smith It is not known when the men died. The men's bodies were brought to shore aboard two boats, while another ferried in the wives. "We've recovered the bodies of the two males, and informed the women that their husbands were dead," Feinberg of the FWC is reported to have said.

June 14, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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de Tournillon Pleads guilty to 2 counts of Manslaughter

Category: Boating Accidents

In a surprise announcement Mark de Tournillon Sr decided to plead guilty to 2 counts of manslaughter in exchange for a recommendation of a sentence of 15 years.

De Tournillon, 46, told investigators he was going "only" 65 mph when he crashed into the Lewises' boat the night of August 20, 2005 on Smith Mountain Lake, about 100 miles west of Richmond, Virginia. He was the owner of Shoreline Marina and a 35-foot Donzi 38ZR.

The night of the accident he apparently got into an argument with the bartender at a restaurant over the right way to make a "dirty martini on the rocks." De Tournillon had at least one martini and one glass of wine, along with some painkillers that night.

Blood tests taken several hours after the accident showed de Tournillon's blood-alcohol content to be 0.12 percent -- well above the 0.08 level at which someone is presumed too drunk to operate a vehicle.

June 12, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Vincent Rutowski, 7, killed in airboat crash near Sanford

Category: Boating Accidents

The Sanford Florida area had its second serious boating accident in a week when an airboat operated by Central Florida Airboat Tours hit a snag on Puzzle Lake and ejected Rutowski into the water last Friday. This accident was fatal. Apparently there were seven passengers on the boat at the time, Vincent's parents, his grandparents, and two siblings, along with the operator, Bruce Fryer.

Fryer usually launches his boat out of the Jolly Gator Fish Camp at 4650 East State Road 46 at the Geneva Bridge and the south end of Lake Harney. The Fist Camp is just about four miles from the location where another fatal boat crash occurred on June 4th. That accident was most likely caused by two boats not seeing one another at a sharp curve in the river. William Williams was the operator of one of the boats.

June 12, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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de Tournillon Criminal Trial--was alcohol the sole cause?

Category: Boating Accidents

I've said it before, and I'll say it again---the government overattributes boating accidents to alcohol, and consistently overestimates boat speeds in boating accidents.

Mark de Tournillon Sr. is charged in the boating deaths of a Virginia couple during the summer of 2005. De Tournillon is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. His boat crashed into the rear of a cabin cruiser August 20, 2005, killing Judith and Lawrence Lewis in a lake about 150 miles West of Richmond.

The government says that his blood alcohal was 0.15. He says that he crashed into the boat because the stern light was out. The government says that he was going too fast.

This sounds remarkably like the case of Brock v. Superior Construction Co. in which I appeared as maritime counsel. The lower court found that even though Brock was legally intoxicated, the absence of lights on a barge, and not his intoxication, was the sole cause of the accident. The 11th Circuit agreed and affirmed the lower court's ruling.

You can find that opinion here:

http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200510110.pdf

Speed is a key piece of evidence in these types of cases. A naval architect with composite hull structure experience can often determine the speed on impact from the damage to the hulls of the two vessels. In the Brock case the speed on impact was confirmed by two different methods to be 22 mph---a safe speed under the conditions.

Lighting is also a factor---background lights can make a vessel virtually invisible to a boater.

June 12, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Richard Hostutler and James Smith drown in Tampa Bay Rescue Attempt

Category: Boating Accidents

Richard Hostutler, 51, and James Smith, 47 took their wives out on a 20-foot inboard/outboard boat near Egmont Key on Saturday. At about 6:30 p.m., with Tropical Storm Alberto in the Gulf, the weather turned rough and Mrs. Hostutler apparently fell into the water. Mr. Hostutler went in after her, without taking a life jacket.

While Mr. and Mrs. Smith stayed with the boat initially, Mr. Smith jumped in the water a short time later. Both men were lost. Mrs. Hostutler was eventually rescued. She and Mrs. Smith with taken to Brandon Regional Hospital.

The accident is being blamed on strong tides and winds, with alcohol being a contributing factor.

Let me say this, if my wife or children were in distress, I would do anything to save her or them, but hopefully I'd also use my head so that all of us survived. I don't fault Hostutler or Smith for attempting the rescue. However, in this case, taking a moment to bring a flotation device could have helped save both of them.

The rule in life-saving is REACH, THROW, ROW (or motor), and GO. What does is mean?

REACH: The first thing you do is try to reach to the victim with a boat hook. If she is out of reach...

THROW: Toss her a life vest, seat cushion, bumper, or anything she can grab onto to help her float....

ROW (or motor): Try to maneuver the boat close to the victim, without exposing her to the props....

GO: Only go into the water as a final rescue method, and then, bring a flotation devise with you.

Was alcohol a contributing factor? I don't know. It is overused by Fish and Wildlife, and the Coast Guard, as a potential cause of accidents. It is almost a knee-jerk response---an accident happened, alcohol must be involved. Often they are wrong, but not always.

The most common way that alcohol causes accidents is by causing people to fall. They fall down while boarding or debarking, they fall down in the boat, they fall overboard when the boat hits a wave or wake, they lose their grip and go face first into dashboards.

The second way that alcohol causes boating accidents is it causes an early onset of hypothermia, and reduces endurance, limiting the amount of time one can tread water. If Mr. Hostutler and Mr. Smith thought that they could rescue Mrs. Hostutler and then tread water until help arrived, they were likely basing the estimate of their abilities on what they could do in a pool---not in the Gulf of Mexico near Egmont Key (which is where the Tampa Bay pilot station is, west of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge).


June 06, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Two Boats Collide Near Sanford, 3 injured

Category: Boating Accidents

We are awaiting details about a boat collision which occurred near Sanford, Florida about 2:30 in the afternoon on June 5th, 2006. Three people were taken to the hospital. The accident must have been severe because a dog on one of the boats was killed in the crash.

The area of the St. John's River where the crash occurred, off Lemon Bluff Road in Osteen, is a narrow part of the river, near Mullet Lake. That may have contributed to the accident. A map of the site can be found here:

http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?formtype=address&addtohistory=&address=
%5b1000%2d1021%5d%20Lemon%20Bluff%20Rd&city=Osteen&state=FL&zipcode=
32764&country=US&location=o4Q1jM0L1HbTt1Mkd8Fr2mzHiz229gAGNMeXs
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June 05, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Jet skis/PWCs: 10% of watercraft create 40% of accidents

Category: Boating Accidents

Jet skis make up about 10% of the watercraft registered in the State of Florida but make up about 40% of the accidents according to Florida Wildlife Commission Officer Terry Noll. Some of the more common accidents are spinal injuries which occure when people will jump over a wake in shallow water and come down wrong, striking the bottom. Other injuries include broken fingers, hands, or legs which occur when someone sticks a limb out, trying to stop two PWC's from striking one another.

Jet skis can do 60 mph without modification and they can be "tweaked" to do 70 to 80 mph.

Here are some of the laws already regulating jet ski operation in the State of Florida:

-Operators must be at least 14 years of age.

-Anyone 21 and under must take and pass a boating safety course to operate a jet ski (or any powerboat with over 10 HP on it).

-Playing "chicken" (e.g. two jet skis run at one another and then turn to spray water on each other) constitutes reckless operations. Under Florida Statue 327.39 it is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

-PWC's are required to have a horn or whistle, a fire extinguisher and a safety lanyard attached from the operator to the vessel's kill switch.

-One personal flotation device (PFD) is required for each person on board.

May 31, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Things to look for when purchasing a boat--for safety

Category: Boating Accidents

Here are some safety rules to look for when buying a small boat:

1. Is the boat is designed to be "eye-catching?" How much special features, carpeting and fancy cushioning does it have?

In my experience, when a boat is designed to be eye-catching, it is a sign that styling is the first priority, and that safety is sacrificed in the process.

2. Does the interior of the boat have adequate handholds?

Handhold diminish the appeal of the interior of a boat, but are necessary to reduce the likelihood of an accident. If the designer has done away with them, then the boat is unsafe.

3. Do the seats have good cervical (upper back and neck) support.

If you are going to be running in a boat at 35, 45, 55 or more miles per hour, you want a seat which will protect your spine. If the seat hits your back in the mid to lower back, you are more prone to get back injuries in a collision, or just through the pounding of the waves.

4. Are the windshields strategically placed to decapitate the driver and passenger in case of a high impact collision?

It may seem obvious, but where is your body going to go if the boat hits a piling at high speed? If the windshield is set at neck level, beware of secondary impacts in the event of a collision.

5. Is the bow seating is shallow?

If so, passengers (often children) sitting up there a subject to ejection even if they have some hand holds.

May 31, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Former University of Georgia pitcher Jody Friedman Dies in Boating Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Over the weekend, former University of Georgia pitcher Jody Friedman died when he dove into shallow water from a boat off Bradenton Beach. The 28 year old Friedman was a resident of Bradenton, but in 2001 he was a member of the Bulldogs' 2001 College World Series team.

It often amazes me how frequent these types of accidents are. People often think that two or three feet of water in enough to break their falls. The rule is, if there is a ladder, use it. Slide gently into the water. Bend your knees. The sand beneath that thin sheet of water is pretty hard.

May 31, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Man dies in Lake at Amelia Earhart Park, Hialeah

Category: Boating Accidents

On Memorial Day evening a 31 year old Miami man drowned in Amelia Earhart Park lake in Hialeah after he went to retrieve a radio controlled boat. He apparently got in an inflatable raft. While he was in the lake another radio controlled boat rammed his raft, puncturing it. The man couldn't swim and drowned as a result.

One has to wonder whether the ramming of his inflatable was truly an accident, or whether another radio controlled boat operator, thinking it would be fun, intentionally ran his boat into the raft. It would be similar to golfers trying to hit the driver of a ball retreiver on a driving range. Since the driver is in a cage, people think nothing can happen, and usually it doesn't.

May 31, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Flen Palmer Dam on Fox River claims One kayacker and Two Rescuers

Category: Boating Accidents

It was a deadly Memorial Day weekend in Yorkville, Illinois, outside of Chicago. Kayaker Craig Fliege went over the Glen Palmer Dam first. When passersby Mark and Bruce Sperling, who are brothers, saw him fail to emerge, they went into the water to try and save him, but all three were sucked and held beneath the suface by the powerful hydraulic forces of the falling water.

The dam is deceptively dangerous, falling only about three feet. However, the falling water creates a boil just beyond the dam which can suck in and hold swimmers beneath the surface. The dam has been the site of at least 16 drownings in the last 30 years.

May 30, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Richard Forest injured in Vilano Beach jet ski accident

Category: Boating Accidents

A near death accident in Vilano Beach sent one man to the hospital over the Memorial Day weekend.

23-year-old Richard Forest was riding his jet ski when he flipped over, landing in the water on his head. Forest was taken to Flagler Hospital, he is now in critical condition.

May 30, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Sauders family injured in Pithlachascotee River boating accident

Category: Boating Accidents

Two Children Medevaced Following Boating Accident
U.S. Coast Guard | May 29, 2006
Tampa, FL. - A rescue crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater medevaced two children from the scene of a boating accident just north of the Pithlachascotee River channel entrance at 8:30 p.m. today.

The Coast Guard received a report at about 7:30 p.m. today from Linda Saunders, of Hudson, Fla., stating that her 17-foot white, center-console boat had been in an accident with her family of five on board. She reported that two of the children were suffering from severe injuries and needed immediate medical attention. Saunders, her husband and one small child were not reported injured.

Coast Guard Stations Yankeetown and Sand Key immediately launched rescue boats and Air Station Clearwater launched a rescue helicopter to assist in the medical evacuation of the two minors. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was also on scene to assist.

The Coast Guard rescue helicopter flew the children and one of the adults to Tampa General Hospital. One child is reported to be suffering from a severe leg injury and the other is reportedly suffering from severe lacerations about the shoulder, arms and abdomen. Their condition at this time is unknown.

The cause and circumstances of the accident are unknown. FWC is investigating the incident.

May 30, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Florida Boating Registrations Exceeds 1 million mark

Category: Boating Accidents

For the first time, boating registrations in Florida has passed the 1 million mark.

While the number of accidents is up, the accident rate in Florida has been declining year after year. In 2005, there were 36 accidents per 100,000 registered boats. That is down from 48 in 2004, 53 in 2003, 55 in 2002 and 2001, 73 in 2000, and 71 in 1999.

May 30, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Florida Boating Accidents-Top 15 most common injuries

Category: Boating Accidents

From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, here are the 15 most common injuries experienced by boaters in 2005:

15. Teeth and jaw (particularly when faces hit windsheilds)
14. Amputation (when will naval architects develop an efficent propeller guard?)
12. Shock (usually accompanied by hypothermia)
11. Dislocation (better than a break, right?)
10. Hypothermia (often accompanied by death)
9. Neck injury (whiplash and soft tissue)
8. Burn (boating fires)
7. Internal injury (anytime there is a collision, there are likely to be these)
6. Sprain/strain (not to specific)
5. Back injury (men, particularly tall men, low back)
4. Head injury (headaches and depression usually don't show up for 30 days, this category of injury is underreported)
3. Contusion (everybody bruises)
2. Broken bone(s) (for those who don't dislocate)

And the most common boating injury in Florida in 2005 was:
1. Lacerations (less severe than amputations)

May 30, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Boy, 13 Arrested in Stock Island Collision Snorkeler aged 6

Category: Boating Accidents

It was a bad Memorial Day Weekend in Key West. A 13-year-old boater driving an 18-foot skiff with at least one passenger on board ran over and killed a 6 year old who was snorkeling in shallow water alongside his father's 22 foot boat. The accident happened off Sunset Marina, on the north side of Stock Island.

"It was obvious from what witnesses said that he knew he had run over a boat," Acton said. "It's possible he may not have known that he'd run over the boy, but he should have stopped and checked."

Its clear that the parents of the boy who caused the accident may have serious problems. If they have a home on Stock Island it is likely that they have assets and are relatively well to do. Entrusting a power boat to a 13 year old may be considered to be negligence in and of itself.

In Florida, anyone under 21 must pass an approved boater saftey course or have an adult onboard to operate a vessel with at least 10 horsepower. Passing the course may not be enough to show that a young boater can be entrusted to safely operate a boat. In 2005 Florida issued 6501 Boating Education Safety I.D. cards to boaters under the age of 16. 74% of those who earned the cards were boys.

Monroe County in the Florida Keys led the State of Florida with 120 boating accidents last year and 98 in 2004.

May 29, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Michelin Boat found 10 miles offshore

Category: Boating Accidents

The wreck of the 24ft fishing boat, the Liberté, was located by a minesweeper yesterday 10 miles off the Ile de Sein. There was no immediate sign of a cause for the loss of the vessel. If true, those facts are inconsistent with most boating accidents. The fact that it was 10 miles offshore makes it unlikely that the boat hit a rock, although another floating object is a possibility. It would be highly unlikely for a 24 ft. boat to capsize, no matter how the weight was distributed. If it was struck by a passing ship, it would bear signs of the impact.

Michelin did his national service in the French Navy serving on a nuclear submarine. He leaves behind six small children.

May 28, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Edouard Michelin, 42, Dies in Mysterious Fishing Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

I've said it many times on this web site and I'll say it again---fog and darkness are the two biggest killers on the ocean.

Edouard Michelin, who was the co-managing partner of the Michelin Tire Group, which included not only the tire company but the much praised Michelin Guide series of travel guides, restaurant guides, and hotel guides, was killed in a boating accident Friday. He departed on Friday morning for a half day fishing trip on a 24 ft boat called the "Liberty" The were fishing with rod and reel (the French call it line-fishing) for sea-bass. It was foggy. It appears that he was due to return at 2:00 p.m. on Friday.

Sea-bass is not a sport fish but is sought after as a delicacy.

The area he was fishing was about 7 miles off the coast, midway between the Ile de Sein and the Ile Centre, on the Brittany Coast of western France---on the Southern approach to the English Channel. "It is a risky zone where only knowledgable professionals can fish. There are rocks, currents, it is true a boiler" said Jean-Marie Figue, spokesman of the maritime prefecture of the Atlantic.

Neither the boat nor the guide has been found, but I suggest this (I've been doing this professionally as a lawyer for 23 years, and for 34 years, if you count my time working aboard ships):

1. Ejection--the boat hit a rock, or floating debris etc. while running at high speed in fog. These types of accidents tend to happen to experienced operators who "know these waters like the backs of their hands." They are usually the result of overconfidence. The operator and passenger (Michelin) were ejected. Probability 60%.

2. Collision---boat was hit by a passing commercial ship which couldn't see it because of its low profile. A fiberglass or wood boat in heavy swells is virtually invisible to ships, either on radar, or even to a diligent look out. Probability 20%

3. Internal defect----the boat sprung a plank which caused it to sink quickly, without time to get off a radio call for help. Probability 10%.

4. All other causes--foul play, swamping, stability problems. Probability 10%.

According to the Sunday Times (London) "The accident took place near Ile de Sein, off the coast of Brittany. The tyre magnate had been aboard a fishing boat that sank without explanation. It had been a foggy day but the sea was calm."

According to ShortNews.com "Michelin's fishing partner, Guillaume Normant, has still not been found. The boat sank after the accident and no more details are known. It had left the Brittany port of Audierne on Thursday night."

According to The Independent "M. Michelin had persuaded the president of the local fishermen, Guillaume Normant, to take him line-fishing for sea bass in his 24ft boat, the Liberté. Weather conditions were said to be reasonable but not perfect with low visibility and a heavy swell from recent high winds. Robert Bouguéon, the president of fishermen in a neighbouring port, Guilvinec, said that M. Normant had ben reluctant to take M. Michelin out but had allowed himself to be persuaded.

"It was his good heart that killed him. He couldn't say no," M. Bouguéon said.

The cause of the accident remained a mystery last night. Although the area, off the island of Sein, is one of the most treacherous parts of a hazardous coast, M. Normant knew it well."

C'est tragique. My condolences to the people of France and the Michelin family.

May 25, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Non-Maritime Attorneys Sometimes Miss Maritime Statute of Limitations

Category: Boating Accidents

Every year it happens. Someone calls me and asks if I will accept referral of a maritime personal injury case that happened 3 years and 9 months earlier. It is a sad occurrence when I have to advise them that even though Florida has a four year statute of limitations, the statute of limitations on maritime personal injury cases is three years.

I had to do it just recently. A young attorney called and said that she had been told that the three year statute of limitations didn't apply except to accidents on the high seas. She was now coming up on four years after the accident and wanted to know if I would take the case.

While the statute is found in the Death on the High Seas Act, it applies to all maritime accidents on the navigable waters of the United States, which includes most rivers and harbors. Land-locked lakes may be excluded.

When I told her that the SOL had passed, I could tell that she was getting upset. Sadly, she caught me in a rush and I was less than gentle in giving her the bad news. I have regretted it since.

The statute of limitations is only the first of many pitfalls you are up against if you are a non-maritime attorney trying to handle a boating accident case. If you dodge that bullet, don't worry, there are many more to come.

May 25, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Accidents with Ship in control of a Harbor Pilot

Category: Boating Accidents

If a foreign ship causes an injury in a U.S. port while it is under the direction of a pilot, in most cases the shipowner can defeat liablity by asserting the compulsory pilot defense. The defense says that if the law required you to carry a pilot (and it always does on foreign ships) then the shipowner is not liable if there is an accident.

How can you defeat the defense? Most times you need to arrest the ship. To do that, you need a maritime attorney.

April 08, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Should Jet Ski Owners be Permitted Limitation?

Category: Boating Accidents

In these days of modern communications, continued need for the Limitation Act is questionable. The theory behind the Act was that a shipowner who properly equipped and crewed a ship shouldn't be liable for something which happens when the ship is out of his control. Modern ships are seldom out of the control of their shoreside owners, but the Act remains a viable protection to them.

But, what about jet ski owners?

The Limitation Act doesn't just apply to large ships. It can be used to insulate a motorboat owner from liability when he loans his boat to another who then has an accident. Even jet ski owners have been able to successfully utilize the Limitation Act to insulate them from liability. Should this be permitted?

No, of course not. Consequently, most admiralty and maritime courts find that jet ski accidents are within the privity and knowledge of the owner because he decided who to entrust the jet ski to. It may be rough justice, but it works.


April 07, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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It worked for the Titantic in 1912, but is Limitation still necessary?

Category: Boating Accidents

One of the unique aspects of maritime law is the ability of a shipowner to limit its liability to the value of a ship after a major accident. An example of the use of the Limitation Act is the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic in 1912. Even though the Titanic had never been to the United States, upon her sinking the owners rushed into the federal courts in New York to file a limitation of liability proceeding. The Limitation Act provides that if an accident happens due to a circumstance which is beyond the "privity and knowledge" of the ship's owners, the owners can limit their liability to the value of the ship after it sinks.

After the Titanic sunk, the only portion of the ship remaining were the life boats which had a collective value of about $3000. The owners of the Titanic were successful in showing that the sinking occurred without their privity and knowledge and therefor the families of the deceased passengers, as well as the surviving passengers who lost their personal belongings, were entitled to split the $3000 value of the remaining lifeboats.

April 06, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Reverse-Erie Doctrine and Joint and Several Liability

Category: Boating Accidents

Florida has outlawed joint and several liability, but that doesn't mean that it no longer exists in admiralty cases.

A Florida court hearing an admiralty or maritime case is required to apply the admiralty and maritime law, even if it conflicts with Florida law under a doctrine known as the "reverse-Erie doctrine." Remember the "Erie doctrine"? It says that federal courts hearing state actions must apply state law. The "reverse-Erie doctrine" is the opposite. It says that state courts hearing admiralty cases must apply federal admiralty law.

It can make a big difference. For example, maritime law recognizes the concept of joint and several liability among tort-feasors, while Florida does not. Under joint and several liability, where two or more people create a single injury or loss, all are equally liable, even if they only contributed a small amount. In Florida, Fabre requires that the damages be apportioned. However, a Florida court hearing an admiralty case would be required to apply the doctrine of joint and several liability even though Florida has outlawed the concept.

February 23, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Common Misconception: Boating Fatalities Happen Mostly to Teenagers

Category: Boating Accidents

If you were to ask most people what age group is most prone to boating fatality they would guess that it was teenagers. Most people would be wrong.

It is old people who are disproportionately likely to be killed in a boating accident. The rate is lowest for children, most of whom are watched closely by their parents while they are aboard boats. Next it is boaters in their 30's and 40's, who are presumably watching those children. After that it is the twenty year olds. The statistics spike up for 60, 70, and 80 year old boaters. One theory is that they no longer have the strength to swim long distances, or tread water for long periods of time, and are particularly susceptible to hypothermia.

February 22, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Drowning accident prevent by Navy Lt(jg)

Category: Boating Accidents

Lt.(jg) Brian Miller and his roommate prevented an near tragedy after a boating mishap left a non-swimming 62 year old man and his wife adrift during a failed attempt to dock a small motorboat. The man was attempting to hold the boat to the dock using a boat hook. When the boat pulled away, he was dragged into the water.

His wife knew that he couldn't swim, and jumped in after him, but she wasn't strong enough to rescue her husband. If it weren't for the quick action of Lt (jg) Miller and his roommate, who witnessed the accident from his porch, the two might have perished.

February 21, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Bowriding as a "Reckless or Careless Opertion" of a boat

Category: Boating Accidents

A discussion has been going on for a while about what constitutes "bowriding." Some have said that riding anywhere on the bow where there is not a seat is "bowriding" while others, including a federal court judge, have said that some part of the body must be extending over the side of the boat in order for it to be considered "bowriding."

The Florida Boater's Guide (page 29) says this: Bowriding is "allowing passengers to rider on the bow, gunwale, transom, seat backs, seats on raised decks, of any other place with high likelihood of falling overboard"

That seems to answer the question. If you are on a large boat, people can ride on the bow as long as there is not a "high likelihood of falling overboard."

February 19, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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U.S. Customs-Immigration Not Liable for Intentional Ramming

Category: Boating Accidents

''The free world never threw anybody back over the Berlin Wall,'' said U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart about an incident where a Homeland Security "Go fast" boat rammed the side of a 15 foot wooden boat carrying ten refugees from Cuba, about 2 miles from a Miami beach. The incident was captured by television cameras.

A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement called the ramming incident "inadvertent'" but it came after repeated attempts to throw a line into the boat's propeller, and to otherwise coax the refugees to give themselves up. The ramming threw four of the refugees into the water. None of them appears to have been seriously hurt.

As contradictory as it may sound, if the United States had intended to ram the boat and injure the refugees, the government wouldn't be liable if they were injured. Why? It is because of sovereign immunity. While the United States has waived its sovereign immunity for negligent or "inadvertent" accidents under laws called the Federal Tort Claims Act, the Suits in Admiralty Act, and the Public Vessels Act, it is still immune from liability for its intentional acts. Consequently, the Immigration and Customs spokesman would likely change his tune if any of the refugees had been hurt.

February 18, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Boat Hits Tuber on Kawigamog Lake

Category: Boating Accidents

In a recent incident in Ontario, Canada, two boats were on a near collision course on Kawigamog Lake when each swerved to avoid the other. The operators heaved a sigh of relief when they each cleared the other--before realizing that one of the boat was towing a 30 year of mother of three children, and step-mother to a fourth, behind on a tube. The tuber was unable to see the impending collision and held on until she collided with the oncoming boat.

The driver of the boat towing the tuber was charged by the Ontario Provincial Police with criminal negligence.

February 18, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Marine Railway Damages Fishing Boat

Category: Boating Accidents

Marine railways are still one of the least expensive ways to haul boats out of the water, but the stresses they put on boat hulls is often underestimated. A fishing boat hauled on a marine railway can have its entire weight resting on just six blocks on the aft half of the vessel, leaving the forward half cantilevered in mid-air. Boats aren't designed to withstand those types of stresses and the process of hauling can cause hogging of the decks and stress to the longitudinal structural members of a boat. In addition, the blocks can compress the hull and even puncture it im places.

When hauling a boat on a marine railway, check to make sure the "rail car" is long enough to fully support the boat, that the blocks are in their proper places, and that there are enough of them.

February 17, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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DUI on Chassahowitzka River

Category: Boating Accidents

The driver of a small boat was celebrating his 5th wedding anniversary with his wife at the Chassahowitzka River Lodge in Homosassa when he decided to take a 14 foot john boat out on a test drive at 7:30 in the evening before taking his wife on a romantic moonlight cruise down the clear, spring-fed river. During the test drive he was hit broadside by a 23 foot boat coming around a sharp bend in the river. The autopsy revealed that the accident severed his spinal court and caused several large cuts on his heart. He died instantly.

The 41 year old boater who hit him testified that he was coming around a bend in the river when he came upon the john boat and had no time to stop. He admitted to having a couple of beers before the boat trip, but denied he was under the influence of alcohol. When the FWC checked his blood alcohol level, it was found to be 0.173. He had two prior DUI convictions. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence for the crime.

February 16, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Charges Dismissed against Drunk Boat Owner

Category: Boating Accidents

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation had a manslaughter case it brought against a man in Citrus County dismissed by the criminal courts in an unusual turn of events. The 28 year old owner of a 17 foot fiberglass bass boat was out with his 27 year old girlfriend on the Withlacoochee River between Ocala and Crystal River when they ran into a cypress tree at high speed. Both of them were ejected from the boat but were recovered and taken to a nearby fish camp. The boat owner's girlfriend died at the scene. He survived, but when his blood alcohol level was taken it was found to be more that twice the legal limit at 0.183.

Continue reading "Charges Dismissed against Drunk Boat Owner"

February 15, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Boats Need Exhaust Riser Insulation or Fire will Result

Category: Boating Accidents

Boat and engine manufacturers are supposed to put insulation between exhaust lines and hoses, and other part of the boat, at least according to recommendations of the American Boat and Yacht Council and the National Marine Manufacturers Association. However, in a recent incident a steering cable was run too close to an exhaust line, causing damage to the cable which resulted in an accident.

Continue reading "Boats Need Exhaust Riser Insulation or Fire will Result"

February 11, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Bow-Riding is Illegal, But What is it?

Category: Boating Accidents

Coast Guard regulations prohibit something called "bowriding" but oddly enough, there is no one definition of exactly what bowriding is. At least one marine safety expert says that it consists of riding forward of a motorboat's windshield.

Continue reading "Bow-Riding is Illegal, But What is it?"

February 09, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Boat Flotation Recalls

Category: Boating Accidents

Over the past few years a number of motorboats have been recalled for the installation of additional flotation materials. The goal of the flotation is not just to make the boat float if it is capsized, but to make it float upright. An overturned hull is difficult for passengers to hang on to, particularly in rough weather.

If you are buying a used boat, check to see it the model was recalled and if so, see if the owner had the additional flotation foam installed by the manufacturer.

February 08, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Carbon Monoxide Causes Outdoor Deaths on Houseboats

Category: Boating Accidents

Most of us assume we are safe from carbon monoxide inhalation if we are outdoors. However, in the past ten years at least seven people, including three children have been killed after being overcome by carbon monoxide while playing on or around the swim platforms on houseboats.

In older houseboats the gasoline generator exhaust exits the boat at the transom. While Mom and Dad are running the air conditioning and watching television, CO is being pumped out the stern. The kids, who don't know any better, play under the swim platform where the CO becomes trapped in a void area. In one case, two brothers, aged 8 and 11 were killed. One lost consciousness and slipped beneath the surface. The other began convulsing and fell over the side. Their bodies were recovered the next day. In another case a boy playing on a swim platform lost consciousness and fell into the water, drowning. In all three cases, CO poisoning was confirmed to be the cause of the loss of consciousness. The cause of death was drowning.

It takes less than two minutes of exposure to the highly concentrated fumes for a child to lose consciousness. The same has happened to at least one man who was trying to free a line which had become wound around the propeller. Newer houseboats have been modified so that the exhaust discharges over the side where it is less likely to become trapped and concentrated.

February 07, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Bad Boys II, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence and Antique Boat

Category: Boating Accidents

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence shot up the Miami skyline during the filming of Bad Boys II. One of the unintended casualties was an antique wooden boat chartered by the production company to appear as part of the backdrop for some of the maritime scenes. While making the movie the antique wooden boat sprung a plank and sank.

Continue reading "Bad Boys II, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence and Antique Boat"

February 06, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Cleveland Indians Pitchers Killed in Boating Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

It's hard to believe that it was eleven years ago that Cleveland Indian pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed in a bass boat on Clermont's 125 acre Little Lake Nellie. Their accident still serves to remind us how dangerous operating a boat at night can be.

The Cleveland Indians had only one day off per week during the 1993 Spring Training season. Crews, who was from Tampa, had bought a new home 25 miles from Orlando on the small fresh water lake. He invited two of his fellow pitchers, Steve Olin from Vancouver, Washington, and Bob Ojeda from Los Angeles, and their families to join him for a relaxing day on the lake behind his house. In the early evening Crews started the 150 horsepower engine on his 18 foot boat, and decided to take one turn around the lake with Olin and Ojeda before picking up the other passengers. It was March, and it was dusk.

Continue reading "Cleveland Indians Pitchers Killed in Boating Accident"

February 03, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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"Almost There" allides with "Lazy Bones" off Anclote Key, Theresa Mazzola (65) dies from injuries

Category: Boating Accidents

When one moving boat hits another moving boat the result is called a "collision." However, when a moving boat hits another at anchor, or any stationary object, that is called an "allision." That is what happened on January 24 when the moving "Almost There" struck the anchored "Lazy Bones" in the Gulf of Mexico. In an allision, a rebuttable presumption is created that the moving boat was at fault. That rule of law is called the "Oregon Rule."

The Lazy Bones is a 35 foot custom sporfishing charter boat which operates out of the Tarpon Springs Municipal Marina. The Captain, according to their web site, is Captain Andy Hoffman of Odessa, Florida. At about 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 24th the Lazy Bones was at anchor about 10 into the Gulf of Mexico off of Anclote Key with four people on board (presumably Captain Hoffman and his two passengers, Vincent and Theresa Mazzola) when a motorboat ran into them.

Press reports about the identity of the motorboat are inconsistent. Some report it as a 56 ft. Sea Ray and others as a 56 ft. StingRay. There is no 56 ft. StingRay. However there is a 56 ft. Sea Ray Sedan Bridge (Model 560) which usually costs about $800,000-$900,000 (for the 2002 model).

Limitation of liability may come into play here. Speed in fog and the Rules of the Road will also be important.

Mazzola initially complained of back pain and was taken to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. She died the following day from internal injuries.

The "Almost There" apparently had five people on board. No injuries were reported.

February 03, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Chris Parker Killed, Spectre Cat flips over at 100 mph

Category: Boating Accidents

Bonefish Grill owner Chris Parker was on top of the world. After gaining experience in the Hops Restaurant organization his seafood grill concept had taken off with the financial backing of Tampa-based Outback Steakhouse. Outback has lots of cash and was looking for a new restaurant concept to supplement its Outback and Carraba's brands. Bonefish seemed to fit the bill. He was up to 30 restaurants. Life was good.

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February 02, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Watch Out for Nylon Lines---They Strech

Category: Boating Accidents

R.T. invited some friends on his boat. He was in the practice of towing his Sea Doo Jet
Ski behind the boat on a tow line. On the date of the accident, the weather got bad and choppy two to three foot seas developed. And as the motor boat was traveling along at 25 or 30 mph, with the Sea Doo in tow, the Sea Doo rolled over its side causing the nylon tow line to stretch. When the tow line came loose from the jet ski, it snapped back striking a passenger in the head, fracturing his skull.

Using nylon lines to tow something behind a motorboat is very dangerous. Consult your marine supplier and get a line that won't stretch.

January 31, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Most Boating Deaths in Winter CG Study Finds

Category: Boating Accidents

Twenty-five percent of boating accidents in November and December result in fatalities. In July, it's only 7% according to a study published by the United States Coast Guard. Hypothermia is the major cause of winter deaths.

January 31, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Recreational Boating Fatalities Highest in (Name the State)?

Category: Boating Accidents

If you anwered Florida, you would be wrong. Surprisingly, Oregon has the highest recreational boating fatality rate per 100,000 boaters. It's rate averages about 8 fatalities per 100,000 while the national average is about 5.5.

Both the national and Oregon rates have been declining over the past fifteen years. In 1991 the national rate was 8.3 while the Oregon rate was 12.4.

January 31, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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One dead, Two Injured in Baltimore Accident between Tug and Fishing Boat

Category: Boating Accidents

The Tug Richard Lowry, which may be owned by Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, collided with a fishing boat with three people on board in Baltimore's Patapsco River at 2:00 in the afternoon on January 17, 2006. The water temperature was about 40 degrees. Vincent lee Jordan, 56, was prounounced dead. The other two fishermen were stablized at Mercy Hospital. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

January 31, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Waivers and Release May be Valid in Jet Ski Accidents

Category: Boating Accidents

Must of us think nothing about signing a "Waiver and Release" or "Waiver and Assumption of Risks" before renting a boat or jet ski. Some people assume that "they are not worth the paper they are written on." However, a properly drafted release can insulate the owner from liability. Here is an example:

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January 30, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Recreational Boat sales up 8% in California

Category: Boating Accidents

In California, sales of recreational boats rose 8% last year.

In the United States, boating is a $33 billion a year industry. California has traditionally lagged behind Florida and other East Coast states in yacht and boat sales, but it is rapidly catching up. Last year a record $540 million of boats were sold. The trend is believed to be tied to increasing home values, which permit people to take home equity loans and buy boats with the money. The trend is predicted to increase in 2006.

January 30, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Beware of High Salvage Costs

Category: Boating Accidents

Before you hire a salvor to salvage your boat you want to check two things. First, see if your "salvage" is already paid under your agreement with them. If it isn't, ask to see their salvage rates.

Here are the rates shown on a recent salvage bill:

Senior Salvage Master $650 per hour
Supervising Salvage Master $600 per hour
25 foot Zodiac $3,600 for 8 hours

This salvor even charge $10 per hour to carry their cell phones with them.

January 29, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Homeowner Policies Exclude "Watercraft"

Category: Boating Accidents

S.L. was riding his jet ski about 30 to 35 mph with a friend of his in a motor boat off of
his port side astern. The motor boat blew its horn and S.L., on his jet ski, turned hard left, putting him directly in front of the motor boat. The motor boat ran over the jet ski forcing S.L. underneath the water where he was struck by the motor boat's propeller. He lost one leg, the other leg was severely injured, and had lacerations on his head.

Will the boat's owner's insurance policy cover him? Maybe no.

Most people do not realize that their homeowners policy does not cover the operation of "watercraft." Jet skis are watercraft. Jet ski owners often have insurance, but what about renters?

When someone rents a jet ski on vacation and allows a friend to ride on the back, they generally do not have any insurance coverage if the passenger should become injured.

January 28, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Jet Ski Goes Over Dam: Federal Government Liable

Category: Boating Accidents

Jet Skis are a frequent cause of boating accidents. Some of the accidents are rather unusual.

In August 1999, four young girls were camping on the banks of the Ohio River near the Ohio-West Virginia Border. They decided to take two jet skis and explore the river and on their way down stream they saw a structure in the river, which they assumed to be a bridge, but which turned out to be Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam. They got to close to the spillway and did not realize that it was a dam until they were about five feet away. They got sucked over the spillway and fell about twenty five feet, landing on the rocks below.

The Army Corp of Engineers had previously placed buoys in front of the dam but removed them when extensive repairs were made. While there were warning signs in place, they were obscured by trees and not readily visible from the water way.

January 26, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Fast Cats Ferry - Tampa - PurrSeaverance

Category: Boating Accidents

A rumor is afoot that the PurrSevearance operated by Fast Cats Ferry has had an accident and a potential sinking. There is nothing in the news about it yet. The rumors say there may be a subrogation case coming out of it.

I'll keep you posted.

January 25, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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11th Circuit Hears arguments in $19.2 million Boating Accident

Category: Boating Accidents

The 11th Circuit will hear oral arguments today in the case of In re: Superior Construction Company.

I was privileged, along with four other attorneys, Campbell Ford, Mark Miller, Brian Flaherty, and Gary Bubb, to try a boating collision case in the United States District Court in Jacksonville. If some of you are wondering how the accident happened, allow me to give you a view from the inside. This is what happened to the Wright family on the evening of December 29, 2001.

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January 25, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Tuna Excursion Boat Capsizes

Category: Boating Accidents

When the Sydney Mae II as one mile from the Umpqua River entrance salmon fisherman Patrick Sullivan, screamed on the radio to her Captain "Don't cross the bar. It's very bad. Do not cross the bar."

The Sydney Mae II, was a 38 foot boat on a 15 hour tuna fishing excursion which capsized recently while entering the Umpqua River in Oregon throwing the Captain and four others into the dark waters. The Captain and one of the passengers, who was in the wheelhouse at the time that a 15 foot wave crashed onto the boat, were the only survivors.

Where the Umpqua River enters the ocean a bar has formed. During low tides and inclement weather high foot waves can build up, forcing boats to go South and return to port at Winchester Bay.

When the boat capsized one of the passengers, a 64 year old women who worked as an office manager for Pacific Pioneer Charters, was asleep below deck. Another, who was wearing a floatation coat but not a life vest, is believed to have broken his ribs when the boat capsized, and drowned. A third is thought to have been caught in the rigging.

The vessel's lifeboat also got caught in the rigging and failed to open. When it finally did open, heavy winds pushed it away from the Captain and passengers. The Coast Guard eventually recovered the two survivors who were trying to swim to the shore.

January 24, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Travel Lift Destroys Sport Fishing Yacht

Category: Boating Accidents

JI was a New Jersey building contractor who looked forward to spending some of his time each year fishing in the high stakes sail-fishing and marlin tournaments held on the East Coast of North, Central, and South America. He also liked to gamble a bit and bet in the private wagers among boat owners called "the Calcuttas." Consequently he had a beautiful sport fishing boat built, spending over $2.5 million on a custom designed yacht with the latest in hull designs. It was built by one of the exclusive yacht builders in the U.S. (naming the designer would, in boating circles, disclose who the owner was, so you'll just have to guess). The boat was light, fast, and new when it pulled into a Florida marina to have the props changed out.

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January 24, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Haul-Out on Marine Railway Breaks Ferro-Cement Hull

Category: Boating Accidents

There is probably nothing more hazardous to a boat than lifting it out of the water. Here is an example of what can happen when a boat is lifted on a marine railway.

I usually try to discourage anyone who is overly romantic about the sea about putting their life's savings into a project involving boats. Two of the most romantic types of people are potential treasure salvors, and people want restore old boats to their former glory. I'm not always right and I was absolutely wrong in trying to discourage at least one treasure salvor, who went on to make a major find. Many people though, who are romantic about the sea and just can't resist the urge, should.

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January 22, 2006

By Tom Young

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Sad Tale of Dominican Immigrants

Category: Boating Accidents

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip. That started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship." So go the lyrics to Gilligan's Island. In real life, being a castaway is far more dangerous. You may get eaten.

Each year thousands of Dominicans try to leave the country and get to the United States, often by taking small boats from Hispaniola, an island which is divided in half with Haiti on the Western portion and the Dominican Republic on the Eastern half, and trying to get to Puerto Rico. Many of those trips end badly. Perhaps was worst was in 2001.

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January 21, 2006

By Tom Young

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Maritrans Tug Sinks Off North Carolina

Category: Boating Accidents

Three crewmembers died and six more were helicoptered to safety last month from a tug and barge 20 miles off of Wilmington, North Carolina. They were bound for Corpus Christi, Texas. One of the crewmembers who survived was from Orange Park. The barge has been docked now, a few days after the tugboat sank.

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January 21, 2006

By Tom Young

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Even Good Swimmers Drown In Cold Water

Category: Boating Accidents

Think You are a Good Swimmer? How about when the water temperature is 50 degrees?

A pair of boating accidents in Alabama and North Carolina last month show how even strong swimmers can drown close to shore if the water temperature saps their strength, and heavy winter clothes weigh them down.

In the Black Warrior River in Alabama, a 24 year old young man drowned

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