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Accidents On The Waterways: Paddle Boards and Boats Sharing The Water

A sad accident happened our waterway to a vacationer. According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, a woman paddle boarding near the Shalimar Bridge late Saturday night was severely injured when she was hit by a boat. The 28-year-old vacationer from Georgia was taken by helicopter from the scene of the accident to a Pensacola hospital, where her leg had to be amputated below the knee, said representative Nelson with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The woman's condition has since stabilized and Fish and Wildlife investigators hope to interview her in the next day or so. There were at least two witnesses to the accident and authorities are hoping that others with information will step forward, Nelson said.

Our thoughts and prayers are with this woman and her family. We pray for a quick and speedy recovery.

Did you know the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has determined that a paddleboard is a vessel in most situations and is required to have the same safety equipment as other small human-powered vessels (canoes/kayaks)?

Here is what this means if you are using a paddleboard:

  • Unless the paddleboard is being used within a "swimming, surfing or bathing area," the paddleboard must have a USCG-approved life jacket for each person and a sound-producing device on board while on the water.
  • Although persons on the paddleboard are not required to wear the life jacket while on Florida waters (unless they are less than 6 years of age), it is advisable to find a comfortable life jacket that you can wear or easily carry while on the water.
  • A "sound-producing device" is a small whistle or horn that can be heard for a least one-half nautical mile. "Referee-type" whistles or other similar devices that can be attached to your life jacket should work well.
  • If you are operating in limited visibility or at night, you will also need a flashlight or lantern that produces a white light. It should be displayed to approaching vessels in enough time to prevent a collision. The light should not be continually displayed.
  • If using a paddleboard offshore or on certain coastal waters at nighttime, visual distress signals may be required, per the Code of Federal Regulations.

Now if a boat is in an accident on the waterways, it is illegal to leave the scene of the accident. According to FWC, the operator of a vessel involved in a boating accident where there is personal injury beyond immediate first-aid, death, disappearance of any person under circumstances which indicate death or injury, or if there is damage to the vessel(s) and/or personal property of at least $2,000, must, by the quickest means possible, give notice to one of the following: the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the sheriff of the county in which the accident occurred, or the police chief of the municipality in which the accident occurred, if applicable. 

As to reckless and careless operation of a boat:

Anyone who operates a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property will be cited for reckless operation (a first-degree misdemeanor). All operators are responsible for operating their vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner with regard for other vessel traffic, posted restrictions, the presence of a divers-down flag and other circumstances so as not to endanger people or property. Failure to do so is considered careless operation (a non-criminal infraction). A violation of the Federal Navigation Rules is also a violation of Florida law.

Click here to learn about Boating Regulations for Floridians: http://myfwc.com/boating/regulations/

Source: http://myfwc.com/boating/regulations/paddleboard/ 

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Our legal team consists of attorney Wm. Dennis Brannon and his son C. Paul Brannon. We work together as a father and son team to provide our clients with exceptional service and solutions in motor vehicle accident claims and other personal injury matters.

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