It seems every holiday weekend someone has lost their life in a boat crash on Biscayne Bay. Ernesto Hernandez was killed in May when a boat operated by DJ Laz backed over him on Nixon Beach in Key Biscayne. On Memorial Day Weekend, Giovanna Patricia Santos was killed when the boat on which she was a passenger collided with an anchored boat near Elliot Key. Now this past 4th of July weekend, four people died and several other injured when three boats collided near Dinner Key in Coconut Grove.
This past tragedy occurred after a fireworks show. After the fireworks concluded, many boats began racing back to the marina. Reports state that a 32-foot Contender center-console boat operated by Andrew Garcia collided with another vessel owned by the Hanono family. Garcia and most of his passengers were ejected causing the unmanned boat to collide with another.
A constant theme throughout all three tragedies is alcohol. A blood alcohol level of 0.08 is the legal limit to operate a boat in Florida. In civil cases where an operator is over the legal limit and is involved in an accident, maritime law requires him to prove by the preponderance of the evidence not only that his alcohol consumption did not cause the accident but could not have caused the accident. This is a very high burden to prove.
Even though 0.08 is the legal limit, any alcohol impacts decision making and reaction time. According to Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the majority of boating accidents (fatal and nonfatal) involve the consumption of alcohol. Therefore, the best practice is to avoid drinking if you are going to spend time on the water.