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Tragic St. Johns, Florida, Boating Accidents Highlights Dangers Of Boating

April 14, 2009

A tragic accident on the St. Johns River near Jacksonville, Fl occurred late afternoon on April 12, 2009, killing 5 people and injuring 9 others onboard the boat.  The accident happened when a 22 foot Crownline crashed into the rear starboard of a 25 foot “push tug” tied to a pier approximately one mile north of the Palm Valley Bridge, an area known as the “Ditch”.  Both the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) are investigating the cause of the crash.

This tragic accident highlights the dangers involved in boating.  Florida leads the Nation in boating fatalities according to statistics compiled by the FWC.  The leading causes of boating accidents in Florida are: 

1.  Operator inattention;
2.  No proper look-out;
3.  Excessive speed;
4.  Operator inexperience;
5.  Careless/reckless operation;
6.  Machinery failure; and
7.  Alcohol use.

Initial reports confirm that operator inattention, no proper look-out, and operator inexperience may possibly have played a part in the St. John’s accident.  Jacksonville News.com has reported witnesses as saying the owner of the boat was not operating it at the time of the accident.  The accident occurred on a straight stretch of the Intracoastal waterway, and is believed to have occurred prior to sunset.  Investigators are also trying to determine whether alcohol consumption may have contributed to the accident as the boaters had previously been at a St. Augustine bar earlier in the day.

Additionally, the number of passengers in the boat may have played a part in the accident.  It is reported that the boat was carrying 14 people, which is more than Crownline’s website has the boat rated.  Florida Boating Accidents Lawyer, Joseph M. Maus, says a 22 foot boat carrying 14 people, would be difficult to control even for an experienced operator, especially when the boat is on a plane (traveling at speed).   Maus has owned and operated boats in Florida ranging from 12 to 45 feet over the last 30 years.  “A 22 foot inboard/outboard, loaded down with 14 people, is going to perform significantly different than it would normally perform with a lighter load.  The boat will be more difficult to steer, balance, and slow down.  Something as simple as a shift to one side of the boat by several of the passengers could contribute to loss of control of the boat.”  Maus specializes in representing persons seriously injured in Florida boating accidents, and has published articles on the dangers of boating in Florida.

Standard power for the Crownline 22 is the MerCruiser 5.0L engine with an Alpha outdrive rated at 220 hp.  With this powerplant, the boat planes in 3.9 seconds and tops out at 51 to 54 mph at 5000 rpm.  More information and specifications on the boat can be found at http://www.buildaboat.crownline.com/whatsnew/magazines/lakelandboating/216ls.php.

Maus says that a combination of factors could have contributed to the cause of the accident, beginning with the number of people, and the weight of the people,  in the boat.  “NTSB and FWC will conduct a comprehensive investigation of the accident to determine the factors which contributed to causing the accident”, Maus says.  Because of the number of boats on Florida’s waterways, Florida boating accidents are inevitably going to happen.  However, simple steps can be taken to minimize the likelihood of serious injury and death in Florida boating accidents:

1.  Always wear a PFD (personal flotation device);
2.  Take a boater safe operation course before getting behind the helm of a boat;
3.  Don’t overload a boat with passengers or gear;
4.  Familiarize yourself with navigational markers, and channels, for safe navigation;
5.  Never operate a boat under the influence of alcoholic beverages.

For more information about boating accidents in Florida, contact Florida boating accident lawyer Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529, log on to http://www.jmmlawyers.com, or email him today.

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