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Boaters: Exercise Extra Caution During Summer Months

A recent boating accident on Black Creek north of Green Cove Springs left five people injured, reminding us all of the potential dangers of boating on North Florida’s crowded waterways this summer.

The accident occurred on Black Creek July 2 when a 21-foot powerboat ended up on the shore after plowing through 25 to 30 feet of trees and shrubs. Investigators are not sure how the boat, carrying eight passengers, ended up on shore. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the boaters were on their way to Knight’s boat ramp near Highway 17 in Clay County when they hit the trees along the shoreline.

Prior to the accident, the boaters stopped at a rope swing about two miles west of the Highway 17 bridge on Black Creek. After they left, a witness said he heard a loud noise when the propeller came out of the water. The witness reported seeing the boat’s canvas top among the trees and two children waving for help. When he got closer, he noticed the boat landed about 15 yards on land. Five of the eight people, including the boat’s driver, were injured and were taken to Shands Jacksonville Medical Center. The remaining three, all children, were not injured. Investigators are not sure how fast the boat was going.

One factor that may have played a role in the Clay County boating accident is the fact that boats have no brakes. Once a boater realizes he or she is in danger, it is too late to prevent the boat from continuing forward. Putting the boat in reverse can help in these situations, but often this does not prevent boating accidents leading to personal injuries.

Another factor is the growing popularity of small motorboats and personal watercraft such as jet skis and sea-doos. According to the Coast Guard, nearly three-fourths of all boating accidents and fatalities involve boats less than 26 feet long. Open
motorboats, like the one in this accident, are involved in the majority of boating accidents due their low profile in the water along with their ability to travel at high speeds.

Boating accidents like this are all too common in Jacksonville, especially during the summer months. In fact, with close to one million registered watercraft, Florida leads the nation in boating accidents and injuries. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s most recent report, Duval County ranks 13th among Florida’s 67 counties with 14 boating accidents in 2010. St. Johns County ranks worse, coming in twelfth with 15 boating accidents during the same time period. Overall in Florida, there is a sharp increase in boating accidents in May, June and July.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission stresses that safe boating is a choice. The Commission recently launched a public awareness campaign promoting boating accident prevention called “Wear It Florida,” which encourages the use of life jackets and increases awareness of inflatable life jackets, which are convenient and relatively easy to use. Please refer to our previous blog for more tips on preventing boating accidents along Jacksonville’s waterways.

If you have been involved in a boating accident, you will need a lawyer who understands the complexities of maritime, boating and personal injury laws. Contact our boating accident attorneys in North Florida to help you determine if you have a case and advise you of your next steps. There is no charge for a consultation and we are happy to meet you at a convenient location.