4 Injured, 1 Dead After Boating Collision Off of Key Biscayne
Just before 7:30 p.m. on January 4, two boats collided near the Bear Cut Bridge off Key Biscayne and Virginia Key. The collision sent four people to the hospital, two of them with serious injuries. One man was also thrown overboard. In a story all too familiar in South Florida, the search for a missing boater quickly changed from a rescue mission into a recovery operation. Unfortunately, divers found the man’s body a few days later near the scene of the accident.
While it is not entirely clear what caused the accident, low visibility is believed to have been a contributing factor. Additionally, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (“FWC”) suspects one of the vessels was operating as an unlicensed charter.
The boat had hit the bottom and was waiting for assistance when the accident occurred. The waters of Bear Cut are notoriously hazardous. The shallow waters and strong tidal currents can prove difficult to navigate, particularly for inexperienced operators.
Boating After Dark
Florida leads all 50 states when it comes to boating fatalities. In 2018, Florida recorded 54 boating related deaths, 54% more than the next highest state. While most boating accidents occur in daylight, accidents are far more likely to turn deadly once the sun sets.
When measured in two-hour periods, the three most deadly times for accidents as a percentage of overall accidents occur when the skies are dark. The hours between 2:31 AM and 4:30 AM are particularly deadly; 25% of boating accidents during this period resulted in death in 2019.
Recreational vessels are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise as well as periods of restricted visibility. The U.S. Coast Guard (“USCG”) Navigation Rules specify the applicable lighting requirements for every description of watercraft.
A guide to the requirements for power-driven and sailing vessels less than 65.5 feet in length can be found in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats. Operating at night is recommended for experienced boaters only.
Personal Flotation Devices (“PFDs”)
Far too many individuals are injured or killed each year for simply failing to wear a life vest. According to the FWC, about two thirds of boating deaths were caused by drowning in 2019. Additionally, of the 65 fatalities that occurred in Florida boating accidents in 2019, 87% of people killed were not wearing PFDs.
Many people choose not to wear PFDs despite the obvious risks. Individuals often complain that life vests are uncomfortable and unsightly or just forget to put them on. However, there are a number of PFD models that take into account both comfort and aesthetics.
Automatic inflatable life jackets are an option for both the serious offshore angler and weekend cruiser. The vests do not inflate until the wearer hits the water and are available for modest prices when compared with the risks of non-use. Alternatively, conventional life vests are available in styles designed to maximize comfort while still providing for safety.
While wearing a life vest is not required for adults, children under six years of age must wear a USCG approved life vest at all times while on a vessel under 26 feet in length that is underway in Florida waters. Additionally, all vessels in Florida are required to have a USCG approved life vest for each passenger.
Contact Mase Mebane for More Information
While almost everyone is aware of the dangers of boating while intoxicated, boating at night can also be a dangerous undertaking. The USCG requires vessels operating at night have operating navigational lights. PFDs are strongly encouraged at all hours.
Only properly licensed and certified vessels are permitted to serve the public. If you suspect a vessel is operating as an illegal charter, promptly notify the USCG or FWC.
If you or a family member were involved in a boating accident, contact the experienced lawyers at Mase Mebane. Our trial attorneys have recovered millions on behalf of injury victims and will work hard to get you the maximum compensation available in your case. Call (305) 602-4894 to discuss your case today.