Articles Posted in Boating Accidents

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Florida Diving Tragedy Takes Lawrenceville Man

In our last post, we shared important information about water safety and small children. The fun and excitement of water play can last a lifetime. But the safety concerns associated with water don’t end with little ones. Older kids, teens and adults must also be mindful of the safety measures needed around water. Only last week, we learned that a Gwinnett County man apparently drowned in Florida while on a diving trip there. The Florida authorities are performing an autopsy to determine what caused his passing. He found with his regulator out of his mouth. This event reminds us that water can be dangerous for people of all ages, not just little ones.

Georgia Resources for Boating Safety & Education

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 512957_better_for_ducks.jpgDuring the summer of 2012, tragic events took place on Lake Lanier. The step-son of rapper Usher died after sustaining injuries by a jet ski that ran over him while he was inner tubing. Another tragedy that took place on Lake Lanier during the summer of 2012, ended in the deaths of two Gwinnett County brothers. The boys were on a pontoon boat with other family members when another boater struck the pontoon and the boys ended up being killed.

In the latter case, the boater who is now stripped of the right to boat in Georgia, was eventually charged with homicide by vessel. His trial and verdict ended in an acquittal on that charge. He was instead found guilty on lesser charges. The charges on which the jury found him guilty include the following: boating under the influence, reckless operation of a vessel and a failure to render aid after hitting the pontoon, which is akin to a hit and run. The penalty for the guilty verdict on these charges is now set and the former boater will now serve 30 months in prison. As noted, he is precluded from ever boating again in Georgia and will perform community service as part of his sentence.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 512957_better_for_ducks.jpgOver this Memorial Day weekend, we are reminded that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Division has asked that boaters become familiar with the boating laws in Georgia to avoid injury and worse. Last year, our state saw 118 boat accidents, 12 fatalities. In addition, there were 180 boating under the influence arrests. As a Georgian and an Atlanta boating injury lawyer, I hope to see a drop in these statistics this season. Some new laws in our state are intended to help lower these statistics.

New Georgia Boating Laws
The DNR is asking citizens to review the laws related to driving a boat under the influence and use of life jackets for kids. The new Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law which went into effect on May 15, 2013, is known as the “Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law.” It has lowered the blood alcohol concentration for BUI to 0.08, which mirrors Georgia’s DUI law and is codified as amended at Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) section 52-7-12.

The new life jacket requirement which was also effective on May 15, 2013 and is found at Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 52-7-8. It requires that children under 13 years old wear a personal flotation device (PFD) when aboard a moving vessel on Georgia waters. But it is best for all aboard to be wearing a PFD. This way, if something does happen, all will be assisted in staying afloat and safe.

The 100-foot rule which is found at Official Code of Georgia section 52-7-18, prohibits the operation of a vessel “at a speed greater than idle speed within 100 feet of any vessel which is moored, anchored or adrift outside normal traffic channels, or within 100 feet of any wharf, dock, pier, piling, bridge structure or abutment, person in the water, or shoreline of any residence or public use area.” Watercraft operators may not jump the wake of another vessel within 100 feet.

Other precautions include: knowing the weight limitations of your vessel and avoiding taking on more people or other weight on board that might overload your boat and using your navigation lights at night.

When operating a personal water craft, make sure that you avoid “jumping” the wake of another boat. Stay clear of other vessels and know the boating laws, age requirements to operate your PWC.

Lake Lanier Accident

Just this weekend, a young man came forward and told authorities of his involvement in the hit and run accident on Lake Lanier. The DNR advises that he came forward with his father after his dad noticed damage to their boat. The young boater apparently admitted to hitting something, but he did not know what it was.

The crash victims had been on a See Doo jet boat that was reported to have been “heavily damaged in the accident.” The victims were taken to the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in stable condition.

Although the Sea-Doo was running with its lights on at night, it was run over by another boat. The teen who came forward was cut and his boat took on water. Although there are no arrests anticipated at this time, there well might be.

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Thumbnail image for 512957_better_for_ducks.jpgThe tragedies we all watched unfold this past summer with the death of Kile Glover (and in a separate accident two other young people), has now led to charges being filed against the man who was piloting the jet ski that killed Kile and injured his friend. The jet ski driver was a friend of the family and on an outing with them in Buford. He has now been arrested after grand jury indictment and charged with homicide by vessel.

The fatal jet ski crash was widely reported on national media. What I hope to do by focusing on this and as an Atlanta boating accident lawyer is to avoid more tragic accidents by talking about the importance of following boating rules and saying something when we see boaters driving unsafely or under the influence.

As many might recall, the 11-year old was tubing with a friend when the arrested man’s jet ski struck them both. In this horrific accident, the boy lost his life after he went into a coma and his heart eventually failed.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has jurisdiction over boating accidents and after a thorough investigation the jet ski pilot was determined by authorities to be responsible for this tragedy.

Some good has come from this summer outing turned tragic. The Georgia Senate has just passed a bill that is named for three boys, including young Glover, who were killed last summer in boating accidents. It was passed with a unanimous vote. Senate Bill 136,
known as the “Kile Glover Boat Education Law” and “Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law,” lowers the legal limit from 0.10 to 0.08 and provides for enhanced penalties for both those hunting or boating when under the influence.

Under current Georgia law the legal alcohol limit for boating 0.10. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) §52-7-12 now provides that: “No person shall operate, steer, drive, or be in actual physical control of any moving vessel while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. The person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) must be below 0.10 grams at any time within three hours of operating a boat, water skis, aquaplane, surfboard, or similar moving device.” This bill lowers that limit as noted to 0.08.

The new bill also provides for a misdemeanor after a first or second conviction, a high and aggravated misdemeanor for a third conviction and a felony for a fourth conviction. Penalties for these include fines, possible imprisonment, community service and other educational requirements. In some instances, boaters will have their licenses suspended until they can provide proof of boating education course completion. Young boaters will be required to have had boating education before they can operate a personal watercraft.

In addition, the new bill increases from 10 to 13 years of age for the requirement of wearing a personal flotation device. The Georgia House of Representatives will now have a chance to pass this bill and make it Georgia law.

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512957_better_for_ducks.jpgOver the past several weeks in the Atlanta area, we have been stunned and saddened by the loss of life, including two young lives at Lake Lanier. Earlier this week, two Gwinnett County boys who were tragically killed in a boating collision in June, were laid to rest. Our community was riveted to the news about the search efforts to locate them after the crash that ended their lives. As a Gwinnett County wrongful death and personal injury lawyer, I have struggled, like the rest of our community, to make sense of such tragedy.

We can never say enough about the dangers of boating under the influence. The brothers were killed and another person on the boat also died, when the pontoon boat they were on with their family collided with a fishing boat that was driven by a man who had been drinking and boating on the Lake.

If this were not enough to bring so much grief to our community, we have another accident on Lake Lanier last week. Two youngsters were injured while on an inner tube when a personal watercraft ran over them. Sadly, the watercraft driver was part of the group that was with the kids being pulled by a pontoon when the accident occurred.

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512957_better_for_ducks.jpgGeorgians are known to enjoy our waterways, and we are proud of our area’s beautiful natural resources. That is why when a boating accident or fatality occurs, we are all impacted. In my experience as a Gwinnett County boating accident lawyer, I know the impact on families when such a tragedy occurs and was saddened to learn of the recent boating accident death of a Buford teen.

The incident occurred over the past weekend on Lake Lanier. We do not have many facts, but as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the incident is now being investigated and it is possible that charges will be filed for the tragedy.

What we do know is that the young teen disappeared during a boating accident that took place on the lake at or near the Toto Park area and Highway 136. The accident took place on Saturday evening at around 7 p.m. and as we know with auto accidents as dusk approaches, light and visibility can be a factor. We do not know whether it was in this incident which will take weeks to determine.

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512957_better_for_ducks.jpgIt seems that tragedy has a way of reminding us about safety. A Georgia man died over the weekend in a boating accident while he and his family were kayaking in out of state. In my work as a Georgia boating accident injury lawyer, I have found that sadly — tragedy does teach.

Over the Fourth of July, many families headed out for a weekend of fun and relaxation. On Eagle Mountain Lake in Texas fun turned to tragedy, as a motorboat hit three kayaks while they floated near a dock.

According to law enforcement, two of the kayaks did not have the lighting required for boaters to see them. A Roswell man was killed and other kayakers were injured in the accident. The motorboat driver tried to help at the scene.

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The most common serious injury suffered by the victim of an auto, truck, boat, motorcycle or other vehicle accident in Georgia is a back or spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord injuries are extremely serious and require immediate medical attention. The symptoms depend on the severity and location of the trauma. A “complete spinal cord injury” is defined as an injury where the nerves are not functional at any point below the injury, where with a “partial spinal cord injury” there is some nerve function below the injury.

Spine Photo1.jpgThe human body has 24 movable vertebrae: 7 cervical, 12 thoracic and 5 lumbar. The spinal nerves wind through the spinal canal. The cervical vertebrae are in the area of the neck, the thoracic center around the upper back and the lumbar are associated with the lower back. The vertebrae are numbered in sequential order with #1 at the top, so C1 would be the top cervical vertebra and C7 the bottom cervical vertebra and the one above T1. An injury occurring higher up the spinal cord results in relatively more paralysis than one affecting the lower vertebrae.

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A Metro Atlanta boating accident left a young woman dead from severe injuries, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Aug. 27. According to the newspaper, Zayna Smith was actually being pulled in an inner tube behind the boat when the accident happened — the third such accident I’ve noted this summer as a Georgia boating accident attorney. Smith, of Roswell, died Aug. 26 at Atlanta Medical Center, the newspaper said.

The accident took place on Lake Allatoona on the afternoon of Aug. 25. The AJC reported that Christopher Girous was pulling Smith in an inner tube behind the boat when the tube hit some rocks. The collision threw her from the tube and head-first into more rocks, according to a spokesman for the Cherokee County Fire Department, sustaining severe trauma to her head and her lower extremities. Smith was unresponsive when help arrived, the article said, and had to be rescued by boat before she could be put into an ambulance and taken to the hospital for treatment. Girous, 53, is charged with reckless operation of a watercraft and pulling someone not wearing a life jacket.

As I noted, this is at least the third Georgia accident this summer that hurt people pulled on inner tubes. Prior accidents sent two teenaged boys from South Georgia and three 10- and 11-year-old girls from west Georgia to hospitals. As a Metro Atlanta boating accident lawyer, I believe inner tubing is safe — but I also know boating safety experts tell boaters to take extra care when doing it. The boating safety manual put out by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources dedicates an entire chapter of its boating manual to safety issues surrounding inner tubers, water skiers and others pulled behind the boat. Its cautions include warnings that boat operators should keep the towed person — especially inner tubers, who don’t have much control over their direction — well away from hazards.

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A Georgia boating accident left one young man seriously injured and another with minor injuries, the Bainbridge Post-Searchlight reported July 28. According to the article, 14-year-old Davis Wallace and 16-year-old Jake Goodson were being pulled in inner tubes behind a boat operated by Mike Wallace. The elder Wallace told the Georgia Department of Natural Resources that he moved out of the way for another boat, then overcorrected, throwing the teens onto the bank of the river. Goodson was not seriously injured, but the younger Wallace was hospitalized for severe injuries at Memorial Hospital in Bainbridge, then transferred to another hospital in Tallahassee.

As a Georgia boating accident lawyer, I noticed right away that this accident was similar to a Georgia drunk boating accident that I recently wrote about on this blog. In that case, the victims were three young girls being pulled in inner tubes behind a boat operated by the father of one of the girls. The operator made a sharp turn, sending the girls into debris and rocks on the shore and causing injuries that required surgery. He was eventually charged with boating under the influence of alcohol.

In this newest case, alcohol was not reported as a factor. But as a Metro Atlanta boat accident attorney, I believe the two accidents are an important reminder that all Georgians should consider safety when they go out on boats and personal watercraft this summer. Boaters may not think boating accident are as dangerous as car accidents, but in fact, recreational boating accidents kill about 700 Americans every year, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. In fact, because a boating accident takes place in water, victims knocked unconscious may be in even greater danger of death from drowning or being caught in a propeller.