Authorities told 7News Miami the operator was a 25-year-old man who lost control of the personal watercraft while his girlfriend and another woman were riding on the rear. He was allegedly traveling at a high rate of speed and traveling in circles (also sometimes referred to as “loops”). A commissioner ascertained the operator lost sight of where he was, which is when he struck the channel marker.
The operator was ejected from the WaveRunner, striking his head on the channel marker. Witnesses nearby pulled him from the water and initiated CPR. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital. His girlfriend was hospitalized with a serious leg injury. The third passenger was treated and released.
The decedent reportedly owned a barber shop and frequented Picnic Island on the weekends.
Officials are still investigating the crash, and it’s not yet clear whether drugs or alcohol may have played a role. It’s also not known whether the victim rented the WaveRunner or whether he owned it. These distinctions could make a difference in terms of liability.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported that in 2015, there were a total of 161 personal watercraft accidents reported statewide. That was out of more than 117,000 registered personal watercraft in the state. There were a total of four deaths and nearly 130 injuries.
Miami-Dade has more personal watercraft accidents than any other county, likely owed to the fact that we have more shoreline and are a more popular vacation destination. Last year, there were a total of 33 personal watercraft accidents reported in Miami-Dade. Although there were no deaths, there were 29 serious injuries.
Broward County, meanwhile, reported four personal watercraft accidents resulting in four injuries, but no deaths.
Monroe County, meanwhile, ranked No. 2 for personal watercraft accidents, with a total of 25 last year. Pinellas County had 24.
Personal watercraft are sometimes referred to by the brand names, which include:
- Jet Ski
- Sea Doo
The FWC reports the majority of these crashes occur while these vehicles are either cruising, changing direction or changing speed. The primary types of accident resulting in injury include:
- Collision with vessel;
- Collision with fixed object;
- Fall on personal watercraft;
- Fall overboard.
In many cases, investigators find that operators lack experience and take on operation of the vehicle without adequate instruction or precaution. Experienced personal watercraft operators most frequently run into trouble when they operate the vehicles recklessly, unnecessarily fast or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Some models of Jet Skis and WaveRunners are capable of very high speeds, and that has proven dangerous on many occasions.
Another possible avenue of liability is to explore the possible defect or malfunction of the machine itself. These type of issues would be pursued as a product liability claim. One of the most common involves injuries from the jet stream propulsion, which is extremely powerful and has been known to cause severe internal injuries to riders who are thrown off the back of the vessels.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
1 killed, 2 injured in personal watercraft accident off Miami, July 31, 2016, By Walter Morris, 7News Miami
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