It was just last week that our Panama City boating injury law firm shared the story of a young man involved in a tragic and life-changing accident on the water. That accident involved a teenager from Oklahoma, a rising senior and a star member of his high school's track team, who lost a leg while riding a personal watercraft in Joe's Bayou. Sadly, this weekend brought another reminder that accidents are not confined to land, and this time an afternoon on the water ended in the loss of a man's life.
More than 150 powerboats gathered for the annual Emerald Coast Poker Run on Saturday August 11. At approximately 5 P.M., a 30-foot Sunsation racing boat wrecked in the waters near Crab Island, throwing all four people on board into the water. According to the report on the Northwest Florida Daily News website, three people were quickly rescued from the water, but a fourth man could not be located in the moments after the accident.
Rescue crews, including boats from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ("FWC") and the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, as well as a helicopter lent to the effort by the Walton County Sheriff's Office, took part in the search. They located his deceased body at about 6:50 P.M. and took him to the Coast Guard station for an autopsy. FWC notified his family but have not released his identity. One male passenger suffered a few minor bruises and two unidentified females who had been onboard were transported to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. The extent of their injuries is not yet known.
According to Stan Kirkland from the FWC, it remained unclear what had led the boat's driver to lose control. Investigators remained on scene late Saturday night in order to interview witnesses, but Kirkland would not confirm whether the vessel had been removed. Chris Sehman, the president of the Emerald Coast Foundation which hosts the Poker Run, told reporters that the deceased was a local boater but had not registered for the event.
According to the United States Coast Guard, 4,604 accidents occurred in 2010 as a result of recreational boating activities. These accidents led to 672 deaths, 3,151 injuries and approximately $35.5 million in resulting property damage. The 2010 fatality rate of 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational boating vessels represented a drop of 6.9% from 2009. Nearly 75% of the fatalities resulted from drowning and 88% of those victims had not been wearing a life vest. Only 9% of the fatalities involved an operator who had received boating safety instruction. Alcohol use was listed as the primary factor in 19% of the recreational boating deaths in 2010. Other top factors included operator inattention, excessive speed, operator inexperience, and improper lookout.
As with highway crashes, every boating accident is unique. If you have been injured or lost a loved one as a result of an accident on the local waters, please contact our Panama City boating accident lawyer. We can help you sift through the facts, apply the law, and receive compensation from everyone whose negligent or wrongful acts led to a boating tragedy.
For more information on boating accidents, see the U.S. Coast Guard's Recreational Boating Statistics 2010. For information on water safety and the importance of life jackets, see the North American Safe Boating Campaign.