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Articles Posted in Florida Boat Accident Law

FindIsablla-300x300The FBI and U.S. Coast Guard are investigating the disappearance of a 41-year-old Florida woman 100 km off Key West. Isabella Hellman and her husband, Lewis Bennett, married in February and departed on a Caribbean vacation on their 37-foot catamaran with planned stops in St. Maarten and Cuba as part of a belated honeymoon.

According to Bennett, the couple left Cuba at about 5:30 p.m. on May 14 and were 60 miles off the Florida Keys when their boat struck an unknown object and began taking water. Bennett claims he was asleep while his wife was on watch and he was awakened by a collision at approximately 1:00 a.m. Per Bennett, Hellman was nowhere to be found leaving him no choice but to jump onto a lifeboat and call for help. The Coast Guard briefly inspected the boat and searched for Hellman for three days with no luck. Earlier this week, the Coast Guard reported that they lost track of the boat even though they had attached a beacon to it to not lose track of it.

Per reports, Hellman and Bennett often argued about the raising of their nine-month old daughter, Emelia, and about moving to Australia, which Bennett insisted upon but Hellman refused.

Rivero-19-Killed-in-Boating-Accident-300x199Chance Rivero, a 19-year-old Vero Beach resident was killed Saturday night when the boat he was a passenger of hit a channel marker, ejecting him from it and into the water.  Per the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation the boat, the 17-foot Carolina Skiff was carrying six people on board, heading north in the Indian River Lagoon, when it struck an Intracoastal Waterway channel marker a mile south of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge.  After the impact, Rivero was thrown into the water and the boat was able to turn around and pull him out of the lagoon.  Michael Ketcham, 20, was also injured in the mishap sustaining lacerations on his spleen and other potential internal injuries.  Although the accident is still under investigation, it appears to be alcohol related.  We extend our deepest condolences to Rivero’s family and loved ones and wish Ketcham a speedy recovery.


Two-Killed-in-Boating-Accident-on-Intracoastal-300x156On Saturday at about 10:30 p.m. a 31-foot catamaran operated by Max Irvine, 36, collided into a 22-foot Twin Vee Center console boat operated by Andre Neves, 37. The two boat operators were friends and had agreed to meet at Bokamper’s Sports Bar & Grill in Fort Lauderdale. According to witnesses, the catamaran was following the Twin Vee at a speed of 40 to 50 mph and it came up behind the Twin Vee, cut from right to left and took out the Twin Vee.  It appears that the Twin Vee was idling as it was approaching the sports bar.  Per rescue crews, the catamaran straddled the Twin Vee.

Neves, the operator of the Twin Vee and Juliana Da Costa Maria, 29, were killed as a result of the crash. Neves died Monday after doctors removed him from life support. Two other passengers of the Twin Vee sustained non-life threatening injuries.  Neves was survived by his wife, Marcia and their son, Logan. A Gofundme page has been set up to raise money for Neves’ medical expenses.  We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of Neves and Da Costa Maria.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission continues to investigate the accident.

boating-explosion-300x169On Sunday, three boating incidents in the waters of Broward and Miami-Dade left a total of 11 people hospitalized.

Just after midnight Sunday morning, two boats collided in the Intracoastal Waterway sending four people to the hospital, two of them with life-threatening injuries. Per reports, one of the boats did not have its headlights on. According to a witness, several bottles of alcohol were found inside the boat.  However, it is not clear whether alcohol played a role in the collision.  The four people were transported to Broward Health Medical Center.

In a separate incident, at approximately 9:00 a.m. rescue personnel responded to a boat fire involving a 1988 23′ Donzi at Black Point Marina.  Per reports, the vessel was docked at the marina with seven people on board, including minors and it appears that the engine compartment flashed due to fumes.  One adult and one minor were airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital and two other minors were transported by ground to Kendall Regional Medical Center. According to officials the victims suffered serious burns.

Airboat-Accident-kills-UM-Graduate-Elizabeth-Goldenberg-300x168Elizabeth Goldenberg-22, her parents, and sister were participating in an airboat tour operated by The River of Grass Adventures when the airboat they were riding in stopped suddenly throwing them and the captain of the boat off the airboat.  Tragically, Elizabeth was pinned under the boat’s engine cage and died from her injuries at Kendall Regional Medical Center.

Per the captain of the boat, Steve George Gagne, the boat “left the trail and when the vessel returned to the trail, it stopped abruptly.”  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is investigating the accident and is not currently releasing any more information.

This death has deeply saddened the Miami community as Elizabeth had graduated the day prior to the accident at the top of her class.   Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach, whose family member was also graduating, attended the graduation ceremony and has expressed his sadness over Elizabeth’s death. Abruzzo says he plans to speak with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to determine whether safety standards need to be updated and if so he’d be willing to file that legislation next session.

Tampa-Yacht-Injury-Attorney-300x200An interesting decision was issued from the Federal Middle District of Florida involving a yacht captain’s personal injury lawsuit.  In this case, the captain filed a lawsuit in Florida state court asserting claims against his employers for Jones Act negligence, failure to provide him with a seaworthy vessel and failure to providing him with maintenance and cure benefits.  As part of the complaint, the seaman also demanded that a jury decide all factual issues.  Not wanting to have a state court judge and jury decide the case, the employers filed a declaratory judgment action in Federal court seeking a Federal judge, without a jury, decide whether the seaman waived his right to bring a Jones Act and maintenance and cure claim by signing an employment contract which contains a Marshall Islands law provision.  The yacht captain moved to dismiss the Federal declaratory judgment action arguing that the court should not accept jurisdiction and allow the action to proceed in state court.

The Declaratory Judgement Act

The Declaratory Judgment Act gives Federal District Courts discretionary jurisdiction to accept a claim to declare the rights and obligations between parties in cases of which it would have original jurisdiction.  Since a seaman’s contract is considered a maritime contract, a Federal court would have original jurisdiction to hear the case.  A Court considers several factors in determining whether it should exercise its discretion when there is a pending parallel litigation.  These factors include: (1) the strength of the state’s interest in having the issues raised in the federal declaratory action decided in the state courts; (2) whether the judgment in the federal declaratory action would settle the controversy; (3) whether the federal declaratory action would serve a useful purpose in clarifying the legal relations at issue; (4) whether the declaratory remedy is being used merely for the purpose of “procedural fencing”—that is, to provide an arena for a race for res judicata or to achieve a federal hearing in a case otherwise not removable; (5) whether the use of a declaratory action would increase the friction between our federal and state courts and improperly encroach on state jurisdiction; (6) whether there is an alternative remedy that is better or more effective; (7) whether the underlying factual issues are important to an informed resolution of the case; (8) whether the state trial court is in a better position to evaluate those factual issues than is the federal court; and (9) whether there is a close nexus between the underlying factual and legal issues and state law and/or public policy, or whether federal common or statutory law dictates a resolution of the declaratory judgment action.  In addressing eight of the nine factors, the Federal Court determined that it should not accept jurisdiction.

Boat-Sinks-300x225Although Florida’s boating season lasts practically all year, the traditional start of boating season is marked by National Safe Boating Week in or about the end of May each year.  Despite not officially starting yet, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel have reported an increase in calls dealing with incidents out in the water.

Over the weekend in South Florida alone, there were several water related incidents including the drowning of two men due to rip currents.

On Saturday morning, three fishermen were rescued when their boat sank near Key Biscayne.  The men managed to call 9-1-1 from a cell phone they had packed in a plastic jar and which floated to them as they were clinging to a beer cooler.   None of the victims were wearing life jackets when they were rescued from the water.  The rescue took place Saturday morning with the assistance of a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and a diver who stayed with the group until a Miami-Dade Police boat arrived.

boatrunsoverscull-300x22916-year-old Dominic Pagan of West Palm Beach was injured late Friday when a 32-Foot motor boat operated by Jay Vass ran over the scull which Pagan and his racing partner were rowing.  Pagan is a skilled rower recently placing seventh in a state rowing competition.

Vass admitted he did not see the dark-hulled scull and had no idea he had hit anything until he saw the scull’s hull sticking out of the water against his boat.  Vass immediately cut the engines and pulled Pagan onto his boat.

The impact of the collision trapped Pagan in the shell beneath the 32-foot boat and sent Pagan’s racing partner, Jonathan Blecher 16, about eight feet into the water.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Dr. Thomas Connelly, a 68-year-old man and resident of Stuart, Florida in Martin County was windsurfing and heading south on the east side of the Stuart Causeway.  Bobby Ray Hall Jr., a 50-year-old man of Little River, South Carolina, was driving a 21-foot Sea King center console boat heading southwest toward the causeway from the eastside of the water way and was accompanied by a 12-year-old boy.

While traveling about a half-mile north of the causeway, the windsurfer and the vessel collided.  The operator of the vessel, Mr. Hall stopped and pulled Dr. Connelly out of the water and began administering CRP while returning to the Indian River Plantation dock.   Thereafter, Dr. Connelly was transported to Martin Memorial North Hospital, where he died.

Per news sources, Dr. Connelly was a dermatologist practicing skin cancer surgery and he reportedly treated over 75,000 cases of skin cancer.  Dr. Connelly is also described as a pillar of the Stuart community.

A 26-foot boat sank with six men on board during a night fishing trip two miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale Wednesday night.   A man on a charter fishing boat spotted something in the water and heard a man call out for help.  The man called the U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Lauderdale via an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast.  The U.S. Coast Guard arrived on the scene with Broward County Sheriff’s Office at approximately 10:00 p.m.  By the time rescuers arrived four men had already been pulled from the water.

With the help of the BSO’s helicopter, the U.S. Coast Guard was able to rescue the other two men in the water.  One of the men was found unresponsive when he was pulled out of the water and CPR efforts were started immediately.  Unfortunately, the man was later pronounced dead at Broward Health Medical Center upon arrival.  The other five men who were rescued were also taken to Broward Health and are expected to make a full recovery.

It is unknown what caused the boat to sink but according to news sources the vessel vanished quickly beneath the waves, leaving the men adrift and treading water for about half an hour in waters approximately 70 feet deep.