The Florida Keys draw 4 million visitors a year, that come to be on the water. Numbers support the theory that this is a boater's paradise, but another series of numbers spell "boater beware." Monroe County, which essentially is the Keys, has more reported boating accidents than 47 states.
There are as many boats unregistered in the county as registered; mostly these are visitors unfamiliar with the water. Also, boaters can explore 6,000 reefs and 800 keys. That means the depth changes quickly and rarely hits double digits, and the bottom is not soft. Those who are injured or survivors of those killed as a result of a Florida boating accident should contact an experienced boat accident attorney as soon as possible to assess your claim and determine what needs to be done to help you seek the fair financial recovery you may be owed for your damages.
Fox News is reporting on a deadly boat crash in the Florida Keys. On Sunday, April 8, 2018, a boat accident caused the death of Jereima Bustamante, Governor Rick Scott's longtime Press Secretary, and injured the boat operator and two other passengers.
The 18-foot Maverick skiff that Bustamante was in crashed into mangrove branches lining the bay side of Whale Harbor Channel, a narrow channel in Islamorada, shortly after 6 p.m. People traveling behind took the injured aboard their boat and performed CPR on Jereima Bustamante until reaching the docks of Whale Harbor Marina, where the medics met them. According to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer, she suffered blunt force trauma and died at Mariners Hospital in Tavernier.
"Our hearts go out to the friends and families of the deceased," said Sean M. Cleary, personal injury attorney at The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary. "No one expects their loved one to die while on vacation, and we can only imagine the heartbreak those affected must be feeling. It is our sincere hope that this was a genuine accident."
What Caused the Boat Accident in Florida Keys?
The vessel veered off the channel and into the mangroves for reasons still under investigation. Alcohol is not a suspected factor in the crash, and the area in which they were boating is not restricted, meaning vessels do not have to operate at lower speeds.
Boaters need to set a safe speed in all conditions. Safe speed in any condition must be closely related to the immediate circumstances and conditions at hand. A boat at high speed has a large amount of force. With an untrained operator, this force can be dangerous. When possible, it is best to operate your vessel in the center of an extremely narrow channel to avoid dangerous forces. Slower speed also reduces the amount of cushion and suction.
The following are representative of the hazards that speeding boaters may create:
- Requiring significantly extended distances to stop in order to prevent a crash.
- Increased risk of losing passengers overboard in the event of a collision.
- Unexpected waves, causing other boats to flip.
- Reducing the amount of time that a boater has to react to changes or the presence of swimmers and others in the water.
Boating accidents: a year-round threat in the Florida Keys
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary established five types of zones with varying levels of protection: Ecological Reserves, Sanctuary Preservation Areas, Wildlife Management Areas, Existing Management Areas, and Special-use Areas.
- In some of the Ecological Reserves and Sanctuary Preservation Areas, vessels may only be allowed access if they remain in continuous transit with fishing gear stowed (diving and snorkeling are prohibited).
- In Special-use Research Only Areas, entry or activity without a Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary permit is prohibited.
- In Wildlife Management Areas, restrictions include idle speed only, no access buffer, no motor, and limited closures and are marked as such.
- In some Existing Management Areas, operating a personal watercraft, operating an airboat or water skiing is prohibited.
Check with the appropriate federal agency for the rules and regulations that apply in these areas.
Navigating Florida's shallow waters can be a challenge for even the most experienced boater. Here is a list of recent boating accidents that took place in the Florida Keys:
- Powerboater dies after crash: Longtime powerboat racer Joseph Sgro died from injuries and two other people were injured after a 50-foot powerboat heading south on the bayside of Marathon flipped over.
- Naples teen dies in Florida Keys boating accident: A Naples girl died in the Florida Keys after getting hit by a boat propeller.
- Man dies in boat accident near Florida: A man from Cayman Islands died in an accident on board a boat just south of the Florida Keys.
- Two men, two boys injured in boating accident: Four people were injured when a speedboat crashed and capsized in Sarasota Bay.
- Man injured in boat crash north of Tavernier Creek: A man was hospitalized for suffering head and arm injuries after his boat collided with a channel marker north of Tavernier Creek.
Safety tips for navigating in the Florida Keys
The safety tips for boating presented below are fundamentals that every boater, fisherman or sailor should know.
A few instructions before hitting the water:
- Take a safe boating course.
- For the most recent marine weather forecasts, conditions, and possible warnings go to weather.gov/key.
- Familiarize yourself with the local waters where you plan to boat.
- Make sure you have sufficient life jackets for all on board, including children.
- Purchase and register an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).
Instructions while on the water:
- Wear life jackets.
- Where marked channels exist, use them and stay in deeper water.
- Be aware of signs, navigational aids, markers, and information buoys.
- Wear polarized sunglasses that can help you "read" the water.
- Keep track of the tides.
- Monitor the weather. Wind and weather can change rapidly around the Florida Keys.
- When in doubt about the depth, slow down and idle.
- If you feel you are in a distress situation, do not hesitate to call for help. The Coast Guard monitors VHF Channel 16 for marine emergencies.
These safety tips are recommended by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. More detailed information can be found on the website floridakeys.noaa.gov/onthewater/boating.html. For help with your case in Miami or surrounding areas, contact The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary today.