A federal appeals court ruled recently that a boating company didn’t have a responsibility to keep an eye on the weather and offer an updated forecast to six vacationers from Florida whose rental boat sank seven years ago, leading to four deaths. But the 3-0 ruling in the case of In re: Aramark Sports wasn’t a total win for the boating company. That’s because justices remanded the case on the question of whether the firm was negligent in its failure to warn the boat renters of the wind speed limitations of the rented vessel’s design.
The boat, a Baja 202 Islander, was a 20-foot vessel that had the capacity to carry eight people. Court records indicate the manual for that boat revealed it was able to withstand maximum wind speeds of just 31 mph. That manual also stipulates that the maximum noted wave height and wind speed for that category doesn’t necessarily mean the boat is safe at that speed or that passengers will survive if the vessel encounters those conditions. In fact, the manual indicates that only highly experienced boaters will have the ability to operate safely the boat in those conditions.
But this was not information that was passed on to the vacationers – three retired police officers from St. Petersburg, FL and their wives – in Utah. When they met with steady winds of 35 mph. At times, gusts hurled past them at 55 mph. Their boat began taking on water. They issued a mayday as the boat sank in Lake Powell. One couple made it to some jagged rocks, where they clung until rescuers found them. However, the other two couples perished in the sudden storm. Continue reading →