How Many More Boat Accidents Need to Occur Before Maritime Safety is Improved?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

The U.S. Coast Guard released a detailed report of boating accidents, showing exactly what the most common types of incidents are and what they result from. The report indicated that the number of boating accident-related fatalities have been increasing over the years, with 2011 showing a shocking 12.8 percent increase in the number of boating-related fatalities over the previous year, calling attention to the dire need to improve maritime safety. Our practice is devoted to helping those seriously injured on the water, so when we see statistics like these, it is alarming and disconcerting.

The report revealed that the majority of the fatalities (70 percent) were the result of drowning, and 84 percent of victims who drowned were not wearing life jackets. Furthermore, nearly half of the fatalities involved motorboats. The leading cause of fatalities related to boating accidents was alcohol, but other factors, including speeding, boater inexperience and mechanical failure were also to blame for the fatalities.

According to the Coast Guard, many of the accident victims who were piloting the vessels were inexperienced. Only 11 percent of the fatalities occurred on vessels that were operated by boaters who had received safety instruction and only 7 percent of the fatalities took place on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from a NASBLA-approved course provider. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) is national nonprofit organization that works to increase awareness of boating safety and reduce the number of maritime accidents and fatalities.

As each boat accident lawyer at our firm knows well, a large portion of these incidents take place in Florida. Between its numerous lakes and beaches, as well as year-round favorable weather, Florida is home to hundreds of maritime accidents each year, many of which result in fatalities.

Just last Saturday, a fatal boating accident took place near Gulf Breeze, leading one teen to sustain injuries and become hospitalized and other family members to become hurt as well.

The teen, 14-year-old Cierra Lowry, is currently in fair condition at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital. Lowry’s grandfather, Gary Lowry, who was piloting the vessel, was killed in the boat accident, according to Stan Kirkland, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is investigating the crash.

Her parents, Scott and Stephanie Lowry, were also onboard the vessel and sustained injuries. Scott, Gary’s son, is also currently in the hospital being treated for his wounds.

According to authorities, the accident took place on Saturday, March 30, in Santa Rosa Sound in Florida. Gary Lowry, 61, was killed when his speedboat hit a wake and went airborne. The boat was torn apart broke apart when it landed south of Shore Line Park in Gulf Breeze.

Lowry’s son and daughter-in-law, Scott and Stephanie Lowry, both age 42, along with 33-year old Lauren Williams, sustained injuries in the crash. Scott Lowry and Williams were admitted to Baptist Hospital on Sunday. Cierra Lowry was airlifted to Birmingham for her injuries.

The rear half of the vessel remains submerged in the Sound.
“Apparently, there was no insurance on the vessel,” said Kirkland. “Right now we are unsure who will be removing the rear half of the vessel – with motors – from Santa Rosa Sound. We will be talking with the family of the vessel owner, the manufacturer of the vessel and (Coast Guard).”

Investigators believe the boat crash was the result of speeding, one of the many factors of maritime accidents the Coast Guard warns about. Other boaters who were sailing in the area on Saturday explained weather conditions were favorable and waves were relatively calm. However, conditions changed when Lowry drove his vessel past the area.

The boat accident continues to be investigated by Florida officials.

Luckily, the damage done by the boating accident was not more extensive. When an incident of this magnitude takes place, there are usually many more victims and more than just one fatality. While the victims were all related, had there been any additional injuries or fatalities outside of the Lowry family, those victims would have been able to seek help with a boat accident lawyer to file a case for their pain and suffering.

Speeding-related boating accidents – along with those caused by alcohol consumption and other wrongdoings – can be completely avoided. The need for improved maritime safety for boaters is at an all-time high, but yet, not much is done nationwide to increase penalties for boaters who fail to abide by proper maritime laws.

Not all states have adequate boating laws when it comes to maritime safety, nor do they have appropriate agencies in place to provide training for boaters. Unless action is taken soon to increase safety awareness and laws protecting boaters, the accident tally will continue to rise.

All of the boating accident attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. urge boaters to exercise caution while out at sea and always wear a life jacket in the event a crash does occur. Designated drivers should be appointed in case passengers choose to consume alcohol, but in order to completely avoid any accidents, boaters should abstain from consuming alcoholic beverages altogether.

Common sense and common sense safety measures are the only way to cut down on the alarming and tragic number of injuries and deaths on the water.

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