Easter Sunday Boat Crash: Intracoastal Docks a Problem for Boaters

The investigation into an Easter Sunday boat crash on the Intracoastal Waterway south of Jacksonville is expected to take some time to piece together, but one theory has been a known problem for some time.

David Roach, who is the executive director of the Florida Inland Navigation District, has been speaking out about the eight mile stretch of waterway in the channel that encourages some boaters to use it as a speedway. The Navigation District has been lodging complaints for years to the Army Corp of Engineers that the docks intrude into the channel.

Without breaks, boaters may find that trying to steer out of trouble can be deadly. In a report, Roach tells the Florida Times Union, “I think that’s what you saw here, [the dock] was so close to the channel it didn’t give this person any degree of error. Once she strayed out of the channel she was in trouble.”

We now hear that the area of the recreational boating accident is known as ‘the ditch’ to boaters in the area because it is so narrow and shallow and that even experienced boaters have trouble navigating them. Some of the docks are built 36 feet from the edge of the navigation channel, which in itself is only 125 feet wide. A dock on both sides of the channel does not leave much room to maneuver.

Five people were killed Easter Sunday when their 22-foot boat hit a tugboat in the Intracoastal Waterway in Palm Valley just south of Jacksonville. Altogether 14 were on the boat when it slammed into a tug tied up to a barge at a worksite building a boat lift.

And while alcohol was suspected to play a large role in the death count, the driver’s blood alcohol count reveals she was most likely not intoxicated. The 44-year-old woman had a BAC of 0.035, well below the level for intoxication in Florida at 0.08. That means the driver had the equivalent of a drink and a half.

Jacqueline Allen, who did not own the Crownline, was driving about 30 to 35 mph when it crashed. She died in the crash along with her 42-year-old friend, Immaculada Pierce. Both women were invited to join the group at the Conch House Marine in St. Augustine.

About one-third of Florida’s boating accidents in 2007 involved hitting stationary object or docks. Even more boating accidents involved boats colliding with each other, says the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Let’s hope the investigation leads to a correction of the problems, other than human error, that may have contributed to this tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families of those who were lost in this accident.

At Farah and Farah, we understand how difficult it is to overcome the loss of a loved one, especially in accidents that could have been prevented and occur out of the blue. As experienced personal injury lawyers in Jacksonville, we have helped multiple clients receive compensation for serious injuries and wrongful death.

Injuries from boating accidents can change the conditions of a person’s life, inhibit their ability to work or return to previous jobs, and contribute to pain and suffering that no one should have to endure. If you or a loved one has been injured in a boat accident or have any questions regarding a boating incident, call the skilled Florida boating accident attorneys at Farah and Farah today for a free consultation.