Boating Accidents, Maritime Wrongful Death

Sail Boat Racing Accident Claims the Life of San Diego Man


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Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. is comprised of attorneys that are nationally-recognized industry leaders in the field of maritime and admiralty law. Our team of lawyers has over a century of combined experience, has successfully handled over 3,000 cases, and has recovered over 300 million dollars in damages for our clients.

The boating accident lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. have always stressed the importance of safety for all boaters, whether onboard a motorboat, sail boat or jet ski. Accidents can take place at any given moment, but when boaters abide by proper maritime safety protocols, the incidence of injuries and fatalities is drastically reduced.

Several factors can lead to boating accidents, including unfavorable weather conditions and mechanical failure, but most incidents are the direct result of someone’s negligence or wrongdoing. Pilot inexperience, speeding, distraction, and alcohol consumption are all factors that can lead a boat to crash. This is exactly what happened over the weekend to a group of boaters in San Diego.

The boaters, who were onboard a sailboat racing toward the San Diego shore on Friday night, were among roughly 40 others racing from Los Angeles to San Diego Bay through the west sides of Catalina and San Clemente islands. The vessel that was involved in the accident drifted into the waves and broke apart, leaving one San Diego man dead.

Craig Thomas Williams, 36, was among those onboard the 32-foot sailboat “Uncontrollable Urge” that was involved in the boating accident. He was able to radio a mayday from San Clemente Island shortly before 9:30 p.m. on Friday, letting authorities know that the vessel lost steering during the race approximately 60 miles west of San Diego.

According to the race organizers, the weather conditions – which featured 8-ft swells and 12 mph winds – were perfect for racing, but our boating accident lawyers know better. There is never a “perfect” time for racing. Although recreational racing or even professional racing can be fun, there is always a huge risk for accidents to take place, and given the speed at which these vessels were going, the severity of injuries passengers can face is even greater than for those who are involved in boating accidents at a normal speed.

The boat’s crew also declined immediate help from the Coast Guard and other boaters in the race, and instead, asked for assistance from a commercial salvage company. However, the salvage vessel was unable to launch due to unfavorable weather conditions, which led to a small craft advisory.

Had the crew accepted the Coast Guard’s help, perhaps the victim would still be alive. Instead, the crew attempted their own rescue mission and tried to anchor the vessel shortly after 11 p.m. Unfortunately, the anchor would not catch and the sailboat drifted closer to San Clemente Island. It was then that the Coast Guard launched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew to help the victims.

The sailboat eventually washed into the surf and was broken apart by the rough waves. The conditions forced the crew to abandon the sailboat and become stranded on a tiny island occupied only by a small U.S. Navy base.

The sailors were rescued and taken to the Coast Guard station in San Diego, but authorities say Williams was dead on arrival. His death was confirmed at around 1:15 a.m., but an autopsy has yet to be scheduled to determine the exact cause and time of death.

The other five sailors were hospitalized in San Diego, but their current conditions are unknown.

Williams was a member of the Silver Gate Yacht Club located on Shelter Island, which participates in races sponsored by the Newport Harbor and San Diego yacht clubs, involving large and small vessels. The Uncontrollable Urge was a Columbia Carbon 32 vessel.

Safety on the high seas is something that doesn’t seem to be taken very seriously these days. Between a lack of life vest usage and complete disregard for international maritime safety laws, a large number of accidents are taking place, leading to serious injuries and fatalities.

The U.S. Coast Guard explains the number of recreational boating accidents has increased drastically over the years. According to the organization’s 2011 Recreational Boating Statistics, the number of fatal boating accidents increased from the previous year by 12.8 percent, from 672 fatalities in 2010 to 758 deaths in 2011.

Unfortunately, the danger of recreational boating accidents remains at large, despite the number of fatalities that have been reported. Our attorneys here at Lipcon urge boaters to remain as safe as possible and listen to weather reports before heading out to sea in order to prevent accidents due to large swells, heavy rain or strong winds. We also remind boaters to always use a life vest and refrain from drinking alcohol while out at sea, which can impair a pilot’s ability to operate the vessel properly and lead to severe accidents.

The more prepared a boater is, the less likely an accident will take place. However, in the event that someone is injured or killed in an accident involving a personal watercraft, our boating accident attorneys are always available to consult with and discuss filing a potential case if the incident was due to someone’s negligence and/or wrongdoing.

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