Though summer is coming to an end, several people are still enjoying the warm weather and heading out to lakes, rivers and the open waters to boat or ride personal water crafts (PWCs). Especially here in Florida, where nice weather is a year-round staple, you can always see tons of people enjoying water sports and other water-based recreational activities. Unfortunately, though, the boating accident lawyers at our law firm know that as much fun as it can be to enjoy a nice summer day out at sea, there are risks involved. Accidents can occur in the blink of an eye, leaving victims with serious and debilitating injuries that are often fatal. No matter how much experience you may have manning the helm of a motorboat or operating a PWC, there are times when circumstances outside of our control can cause an accident or our own negligent actions in abiding by proper safety protocols.
Sadly, a fatal Jet Ski accident took place this weekend in Clearwater, FL involving a Lower Gwynedd Township, PA couple who was killed after their Jet Ski collided with a dolphin tour boat.
Ramana Gadiraju, 50, and his partner, Shubhada Kulkarni, 49, died after crashing into a double decker Tropics Boat Tours tour boat that was on a dolphin sightseeing cruise at around 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, near the Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge. The couple was on vacation in Florida, and according to witnesses, was racing with another Jet Ski, which miraculously was able to avoid hitting the tour bout.
Though each boating accident attorney at our law firm has often found that the majority of Jet Ski collision accidents result from the negligence of a larger vessel’s operator, this particular accident may have resulted from the negligence of the Jet Ski operators.
Authorities believe the victims may have been involved in a dangerous game of ‘chicken’ but this theory has yet to be confirmed. The tour boat captain said he cut his engine after noticing the Jet Skis, but could not avoid the collision. The Jet Skis were heading south in the Clearwater channel as the 59-foot tour boat was heading north. Police say the Jet Ski crashed into the “dead center front” of the boat.
What happened next was truly an action that must be commended. Instead of fleeing the scene like many boat operators have done in the past when they are involved in a collision, the tour boat captain actually retrieved the victims from the water and performed CPR while waiting for paramedics. Unfortunately, it was too late for the victims. Luckily, none of the 70-plus passengers aboard the tour boat were injured.
This is the first time in Tropic Boat Tours’ history that a vessel is involved in an accident, explained Trisha Rodriguez, the owner of the company, who was in tears following the crash. Rodriguez cancelled all tours the following day out of respect to the victims and the company expressed its condolences to the victims’ family.
Though it appears as though the Jet Ski accident was the fault of the victims themselves, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is continuing its investigation into the incident.
Our boating accident attorneys would like to take this moment to remind everyone on the dangers of riding a personal water craft. When a collision occurs, victims may be left with debilitating injuries that can prevent them from swimming or staying afloat and may even become unconscious. A life jacket is the only protection victims have to stay safe until emergency crews arrive.
No matter what the particular rules for your state may be, it is crucial that all riders wear a life jacket to protect themselves in the event of an accident. In Florida, for example, requires everyone who is operating a PWC to wear a life jacket, no matter what their age. The state also requires anyone 21 years of age and younger to carry a boating safety education card and photo ID while operating any kind of water craft with 10 horsepower or greater, which often includes PWCs. Florida also prohibits children under 14 years of age from operating a PWC. Individual state boating laws may be found on the US Coast Guard website.
It is also equally important to operate Jet Skis prudently. Racing is extremely dangerous and can lead to fatal injuries, as demonstrated by this recent tragic accident. A crash can occur for endless reasons, including weather changes, rouge waves or another person’s negligence, so it is imperative that all individuals operating a PWC do so with extreme caution to protect themselves and fellow riders from harm.
Jet Ski safety is not something to be taken lightly. There are numerous things individuals can do to lower their risk of being hurt in an accident, including operating a PWC at the proper speed limit, refraining from consuming alcohol and always remaining fully attentive of the situation and the area to prevent a collision. When an accident does occur, victims have the right to retain legal counsel to discuss their options in filing a boating accident case.
There are many unique maritime laws that apply to Jet Ski accident cases, as well as all boat accident cases, that is why it is imperative that when an accident occurs at sea, you speak with an experienced maritime lawyer.