Each admiralty lawyer at our firm knows that one of the leading contributors to boating accidents is alcohol consumption. Alcohol impairs a boater’s judgment to the point that they are unable to properly and safely navigate their vessels, leading boaters to make irrational and unsafe choices while out on the water, and can also cause a boater to lose consciousness, leading them to suffer total loss of control of their vessel and to fall overboard.
While each state has its own laws when it comes to boating under the influence – and despite the fact that alcohol consumption tends to increase the frequency and severity of accidents – many continue to drink alcoholic beverages while operating or riding in vessels or water crafts. And this is not a problem limited to the United States. Sadly, alcohol appears to have been a main factor in a boating accident in Ireland earlier this year, in which a 20-year-old autistic man drowned when the vessel he was riding in capsized.
Police continue to search for evidence as to why the vessel capsized in Lough Erne last May. Six people had been sailing along the waterway aboard a motorboat when the vessel capsized and sank. Those who survived the accident said the accident was “sudden” and could not explain what could have possibly caused it. However, reports on the incident reveal everyone on the boat had been consuming alcohol and no one was wearing life jackets – two critical mistakes.
A tourist who witnessed the motor boat capsize and came to the aid of the victims told investigators he saw one man stand up on the boat, causing it to rock from side to side, right before the vessel tipped over. However, the survivors insist they have no idea why the vessel flipped over.
According to the victim’s mother, her son purchased the boat the day before the accident occurred, and her partner had warned him against the purchase, saying the vessel was not suitable for the lough. Additionally, the victim’s mother said her son did not have enough experience to operate the vessel.
But was it the fact that he was inexperienced that contributed to the accident, or the fact that he – and all the other passengers – had been consuming alcohol?
Toxicology tests found that the victim’s blood alcohol level was one-and-a-half times over the legal limit and also revealed he had traces of cannabis in his system, along with the sedative diazepam. Witnesses to the accident also claim the boat did not appear safe and was overloaded, which police confirmed. Investigators said the vessel was only designed for, at maximum, four people and there had been six people on board. Police reports additionally showed that the vessel’s aluminum hull was not suited for the rough conditions in the lough.
It appears as though several factors played a part in this tragic boating accident. However, even despite the fact that the boat was overloaded and that, perhaps, the victim who piloted the vessel was inexperienced it is very likely that the intoxicate deceased was not thinking clearly at the time of the accident. Additionally, the victim’s likely off survival would have been greatly increased had he been sober and been wearing a life jacket.
Any experienced admiralty lawyer can attest to the fact that life jackets are often the best after the fact defense against the life-threatening consequences of a boating accident. Even if a victim is unconscious, a proper life jacket is designed to keep them afloat and keep their head out of the water, thereby increasing their chance of survival and of being rescued. Consuming alcohol is not a wise choice when boating, but there is no excuse not to wear a proper life jacket while out on the water.