The Source for Maritime Legal Information

Articles Posted in Florida Boat Accident Law

Boat Crash Black Creek Florida.jpgA woman was seriously injured when the Boston Whaler boat she was a passenger in hit an overhanging tree branch at approximately 30 mph while traveling around a bend in Black Creek, a 13-mile-long tributary of the St. Johns River in Clay County, Florida. Three other passengers of the boat also sustained injuries, one of them requiring hospitalization. The two passengers that were hospitalized were in the back of the boat at the time of the crash. According to the operator of the boat, Charles Spiegel, upon coming around the bend he encountered an overhanging tree branch and he “cut it hard and broadsided the tree branch.” Both passengers transported to the hospital were alert when they were being taken to Orange Park Medical Center. However, they were reportedly in a lot of pain. The Clay County Sheriff’s Department is assisting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in investigating this accident.

Black Creek is a winding creek known by locals as a difficult area to navigate with many sharp turns. In 2011, Black Creek was the site of a fatal boat crash that resulted in the death of two teenagers. Reportedly, the operator of the boat left control of the boat to pump the fuel bulb when the boat veered into the north bank and crashed into a tree three feet off the water. The operator of the boat and father of one of the deceased passengers was charged with reckless boating.

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Jose-Fernandez-boat-accident.jpgIt has been a month since Florida Marlins’ pitcher Jose Fernandez and his friends Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Macias lost their lives in a tragic boating accident in Miami Beach. Shortly after the tragedy, law enforcement reported the boat involved in the crash with the north jetty of Government Cut did not belong to Fernandez. It was later confirmed that Fernandez did, in fact, own the vessel. It has been also confirmed that hours before the accident, Fernandez was drinking at American Social, a Miami area restaurant and bar. A toxicology report recently released indicates that Fernandez had a blood alcohol level of 0.147 which is nearly twice Florida’s legal boating limit of 0.08. The same toxicology report concluded that he also cocaine in his system. Though Fernandez was legally intoxicated, it is now being suggested that he was not operating the boat at the time of the accident. This theory is based upon a witness telling law enforcement that he was on the phone with Fernandez near the time the boat struck the jetty.

Who is Responsible

Though this the accident occurred on a private boat mere yards from shore, a civil case concerning who is labile will be governed by maritime law. Maritime law is an amalgamation of decisional law dating back to ancient Greece supplemented, at times, by non-conflicting state law. From the facts known to date, there are four potential sources of liability: the boat owner, the boat operator, the alcohol server and the government.
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Four Injured in Boating Accident in Indian River Lagoon.jpgFour people were hospitalized late Thursday night after the boat they were traveling in struck a sand bar at channel marker 85 in the Indian River Lagoon around 11:20 p.m. One person was treated at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Florida. The other three individuals were treated at Sebastian river Medical Center in Sebastian, Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is still investigating the cause of the crash. The identities and condition of the people involved have not been released. We will continue to monitor and update this story as more information is known.

Just last month, Florida Marlins superstar pitcher Jose Fernandez and two of his friends, Eddy Rivero and Emilio Macias died when the boat owned by Fernandez, crashed into a jetty sometime before 3:00 a.m. These accidents highlight the danger of boating after dark. Most boats are not equipped with headlights thus increasing the likelihood of crashing with a fixed object. Additionally, most channel markers and other navigational aids have no lighting attached. Boaters intending to travel at night are recommended to have their own lights, such as handheld marine-grade spotlights.

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Man Killed in Jet Ski Crash Captiva Island.jpgA 24-year-old man identified as Hector Santiago was killed on Monday night when the Jet Ski he was riding crashed into a piling, ripping off the handlebars and throwing him into the water. Rescue personnel searched for the man for 30 minutes before he was located. Unfortunately, by then, efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. The crash occurred near South Seas Island Resort; Florida Fish and Wildlife officers could not confirm whether Mr. Santiago and his girlfriend, whom he was vacationing with, were guests at the resort but did confirm that the Jet Ski was rented.

No information is yet known on where the man rented the Jet Ski from or at what time but pursuant to Florida law, a person may not operate a personal watercraft at any time between the hours from one-half hour after sunset to one-hour before sunrise. Based on the time the accident took place, it appears that the Jet Ski was rented in violation of Florida law.

Investigation into this accident is ongoing and we will continue to update this story as we learn more information. We extend our sympathies to Mr. Santiago’s family and loved ones.

A diver was severally injured when a charter fishing boat ran him over. The incident occurred off the White Street Fishing Pier in Key West last Saturday, October 8th. Witnesses stated that the injured diver, along with another man, were displaying the legally mandated divers-down flags when the charter boat struck him at a high rate of speed. It appears that a propeller from the boat nearly severed diver’s left foot. The captain of the fishing boat retrieved the injured diver from the water and reported the incident to law enforcement. The captain was directed to return to shore where Key West Fire Rescue responded. The injured diver was taken to an area hospital. There have been no reports on the victim’s condition at the time of this post.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office investigate such incidents. Florida law requires all divers without boats display a red divers-down symbol with a horizontal white strip that is a minimum of 12 inches by 12 inches which could take the form of a flag of buoy.

Hurricane Matthew.jpgHurricane Matthew is causing multiple cruise ships including the Carnival Sensation, Carnival Splendor and Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas to alter their itineraries as the storm travels Cuba and the Bahamas. Several cruise ships will avoid travel to the Bahamas and will instead head to Key West, Florida and Cozumel, Mexico.

According to reports, the storm made landfall in Haiti early this morning carrying winds of 145 mph causing devastating damage to the island. Hurricane Matthew is expected to pass over eastern Cuba and portions of the Bahamas later today then heading toward the US, dropping down to a category 3 with 120 mph winds.

The United States Coast Guard Captain for South Florida Ports has set port condition whiskey for Port Miami, Miami River Port Everglades, Port of Palm Beach, Port of Ft. Pierce and all other South Florida terminals and facilities due to the storm’s expected track near southwest Florida.

Biscayne-Bay-Boat-Accident.pngA boating accident in south Biscayne Bay sends one boater to the hospital. It is being reported that at 2:20 p.m. on Sunday, September 26th, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue crews were called to a boating accident scene where one person was significantly injured. The incident happened in Biscayne Bay National Park near Elliot Key to the east and approximately 5 miles from Turkey Point to the west. On scene, Fire Rescue assessed the injured person as a trauma alert and called for a medical evacuation air team. Fire Rescue assisted with hoisting the victim onto a helicopter. The boater was taken to a local trauma center and is currently listed in critical condition. Though the accident involved only one boat, it is unknown if the vessel struck an object or ran aground. A local salvage company towed the vessel back to Black Point Marina. Other passengers were taken off by other boats in the area before Fire Rescue arrived. None of the other passengers were hurt. This accident occurred within in 12 hours of the boating fatality of Florida Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez.

Photo Credit: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

Jose-Fernandez-Boat-Accident.jpgFlorida Marlins’ pitcher Jose Fernandez is one of three people who died Sunday morning in a boating accident off Miami Beach. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded to a report of a 32-foot boat that crashed into the north jetty of the Government Cut inlet. Fire Rescue Chief, Todd Garofalo, stated that an “initial search [found] three victims – two on top of the water, one underneath the boat…” The identities of the other victims have not been released. Details on how the boat ended up on the jetty and who was the operator are unknown at this time. Government Cut is the main waterway connecting the Port of Miami to the Atlantic Ocean.

Fernandez, 24, was born in Cuba and emigrated to the United States with his family in 2008 after three prior unsuccessful defection attempts. At just 15 years of age, he was jailed for defection. According to news sources, Fernandez saved his mother from drowning on the journey to Mexico after leaving Cuba. Fernandez and his family settled in Tampa where he attended Alonso High School. He was a 2011 first-round draft pick of the Marlins and was selected to play in the National League All-Star game in his rookie season. Last week, Fernandez announced he and his girlfriend, Maria Arias were expecting a child. During today’s news conference the Marlins announced the couple was expecting a baby girl. We are saddened by the tragic loss of a stellar player and human being and offer our condolences to his family and the families of the two victims involved in this accident.

***UPDATE – Sept. 25, 2:30 p.m.***

Miami-Dade Canal Boat Accident Law.jpgThe Federal Eleventh Circuit recently found that a Miami-Dade County canal popular for boating and fishing is not navigable thereby precluding claims based upon Federal admiralty jurisdiction. Since Federal admiralty jurisdiction does not exist, Florida state law, not Federal maritime law applies to boating accidents that occur in many South Florida canals.

The Accident

A privately owned pleasure boat was operating in a waterway known as the Coral Park Canal. While the boat was traveling south, it encountered a bridge with low clearance at the intersection of SW 94th Avenue and SW 8th Street. The operator and four passengers lowered their heads while the vessel passed under the bridge. As the boat emerged from the other side of the bridge, one passenger raised his head and hit a water pipe owned by Miami-Dade County that extended over the canal. The force of the impact ejected the passenger from the boat and into the canal causing a significant personal injury.
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jetskichannelmarker.jpgA 16 year-old teenager was airlifted yesterday after he was thrown off a jet ski when it struck a channel marker. The teenager was jet skiing near Fred Howard Park in the Intracoastal Waterway. His condition is not known at this time.

According to reports from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a nearby boater assisted in getting the young man help. The FWC is currently investigating the accident. We sincerely wish the young man a speedy recovery.

This is the second accident of this type this week alone. On Sunday, a Miami man was killed when he was involved in a nearly identical accident near the Julia Tuttle causeway.