Personal Watercraft Accident in Northwest Florida Leaves Teen With Amputated Leg

Options abound when it comes to spending a day on the water off of the Florida Panhandle. As fellow residents of the region, the team at The Pittman Firm knows that the proximity to the water is one of the elements that make our area special. However, our Panama City personal injury law firm also knows that a day on the water can quickly turn from fun to tragedy.

As reported by the Northwest Florida Daily News, a teenager from Oklahoma set out to enjoy a fun day on the Gulf Coast but ended up being involved in a life-altering accident. On Sunday August 5, 17-year-old Patrick Ahern from Norman, Oklahoma rented a Sea-Doo personal watercraft. Ahern was operating the craft in Joe's Bayou, a waterway near Destin that opens into Choctawhatchee Bay.

At approximately 4 P.M., the teen was cutting across the Bayou when the watercraft he was piloting collided with a larger powerboat. Nathan Lambert, from Tennessee, was operating the 38-foot Go Fast Fountain. He told officials that he saw the Sea-Doo watercraft coming towards his boat. Lambert said he was unable to avoid the teen and the Sea-Doo hit the larger vessel with a "glancing blow."

Ahern continued moving forward, striking the propeller of Lambert's boat. It was immediately clear that Ahern was seriously injured. Lambert was unharmed and two passengers, his wife and their infant, were also uninjured. After administering immediate first aid to the teen, Lambert and his wife quickly transported Ahern to the Joe's Bayou boat ramp. Emergency Medical Services personnel met the group at the ramp and they took Ahern to Sacred Heart Hospital. The accident severed the teen's lower left leg below the knee. He remained in critical condition as of the Daily News report on Monday. Officials at Norman High School told reporters that Ahern had been a member of the cross-country and soccer teams.

Ahern was set to be one of the captains for the cross-country team as they defend their position as state champions in their division. A school official called Ahern "a kid of the highest caliber" and said the accident will be a blow for his family, his team, and the entire student body. Stan Kirkland, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told reporters that the accident remains under investigation. The rented Sea-Doo was totaled in the crash and cannot be salvaged. According to the Division of Law Enforcement of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there were 162 personal watercraft injuries and 7 deaths involving personal watercrafts in Florida during the year 2011.

66 of these incidents primarily involved a collision with another vessel and 30 involved collision with another object. 40% of the accidents involved operators with fewer than 10 hours of experience. Accidents on the water, whether they involve personal watercraft or larger vessels, can have a variety of causes. These causes can include the negligence of another operator, poor maintenance on behalf of a rental company, or a manufacturing problem. If you are injured in an accident and believe someone else was at fault, please contact our Panama City boating injury lawyer. We can help you get the compensation you deserve.

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