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Florida Boating Accident Kills 1, Injures 5

Five teens were injured – three of them critically – and one was killed in a boating accident in waters running through a quiet residential neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale.

Authorities with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission indicated the small boat in which they were riding struck a bridge on the Middle River, shortly after midnight. At the time, the group was navigating waters that run along the North Dixie Highway in Fort Lauderdale, a residential neighborhood that is, by all accounts, pretty quiet.

The group had only been out for about an hour-and-a-half before the accident.

All of those aboard are believed to be under the age of 18. The teen who died is believed to have been a student of St. Thomas Aquinas High School.

One man who lives nearby said that while boats do navigate those waters routinely, he spotted the boat with the teenagers zooming by more quickly than usual. He heard laughter and “carrying on.” He thought about getting up to shout at them to slow down. But he said by the time he made it to the water’s edge in his back yard, the boat was already outside of range to shout.

However, it wasn’t until the following morning, when he saw the news reports, that he learned a boat had crashed.

Friends of those involved say the teens were all avid boaters, who had operated boats for years.

Some are speculating about whether the boat struck a drainage pipe that was hanging low under the bridge. Authorities were also looking at the possibility that speed may have been a factor, although they note that wasn’t necessarily the case because a number of those on board were standing up on the vessel at the time of the crash.

Survivors who were interviewed indicated they did not feel threatened by the speed of the vessel in the moments before the crash. They may simply not have seen what was directly in front of them.

And this is a major risk with night boating, especially when operators are those without extensive experience. Yes, these were individuals who likely grew up on the water, but they could have only legally been operating a boat for a maximum of four years, given their ages.

What’s more, even when fixed structures – such as bridges or barges or seawalls – are properly lit, night boating is still dangerous. Even when structures meet minimum light requirements, it’s often still not enough in the dead of night.

Boaters with decades of experience say they generally avoid night boating because boats don’t have brakes. Obstacles may not be visible until you are right on top of them. There is also something known as the “autokinetic effect,” and it’s essentially when your eyes “play tricks” on you in the darkness, usually to see light at a fixed point moving when in fact it’s not. It’s especially pronounced in the water.

Our Fort Lauderdale boat injury lawyers know there are many things that can go wrong while navigating Florida waters at night. Sometimes, more than one factor leads to a tragedy like this. In cases where injuries proximately result from the negligent acts of others, pursuit of compensation may be appropriate.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Friends identify teen killed in boat crash, 5 others injured, Aug. 13, 2015, By Doug Phillips and WAyne K. Roustan, Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Navarette v. Meyer – Liability of Passenger for Fatal Crash, July 22, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Boating Accident Lawyer Blog

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