It’s already happening — people being seriously hurt or killed during the 2016 summer boating season. Just last month, over in Jackson County on a private lake at Indiana’s Lake and Forest Club, a young man slammed into the dock while operating a Honda personal watercraft and sustained severe bodily injuries. His passenger was also seriously injured, but not as severely as the driver who was found unresponsive, floating face-down in the lake water, by his rescuers.
These personal watercraft which you may recognize as “Jet Skis” are considered vessels and regulated under state and federal boating laws. Jet-Ski, however, is the brand name for one model of personal watercraft (”PWC”) manufactured by Kawasaki. Other popular versions include the BRP Sea-Doo, and Yamaha WaveRunner.
The Jackson County accident is believed to have involved a Honda PWC, or AquaTrax. No further news stories have been released regarding the status of these accident victims.
Remembering Boy’s Fatal Boating Accident With New Law
Those of us who have lived in this part of the country for a while may still remember a serious boating accident that happened back in 2012 over on Petite Lake in Lake County, Illinois.
That was a horrible day: a little ten year old boy from Libertyville named Anthony Borcia was having fun riding on an inner tube as it was towed along in the water by a pontoon.
Things were fine that day until little Tony Borcia fell off the inner tube into the lake.
He was wearing a red life-jacket. He was yelling. He was waiving his arms. But it wasn’t enough: another boat ran over the boy as he flailed around in the waters of Petite Lake. The child died in the accident.
It was discovered that this boater had been drinking at the time. He ultimately pled guilty to OUI (the boat version of DUI) and got 10 years behind bars as his sentence.
Young Tony’s family worked hard in the aftermath of this tragic loss to get a new law passed here in Illinois. Now, in Illinois it is against the law to operate a motorboat with a minimum 10 horsepower engine unless you have a state Boating Safety Certificate and were born on or after January 1, 1998.
Tickets and Arrests Are Possible: Violating Boating Laws is a Crime
Right now, law enforcement on area waterways are on the lookout for those violating boating laws as they try to keep people safe from accidents and death on our local waterways. Reporting the efforts of District 5 Indiana Conservation Officers over this past Memorial Day, there was a near-record turn out on area lakes, with officers doling out tickets for things like failure to wear a life jacket and driving too fast.
While no one died in a boating accident over that weekend in that District, there was a boating accident where a fisherman was slashed by his own engine as he was trying to grab a ski rope, and the tragic drowning of a woman from Brazil who attempted to swim in an area near Cataract Falls in Owen County that had been posted as a no swimming area.
Cavalier Attitude of Some Boaters
For some reason, lots of boaters don’t consider being out on the water as much of a danger as being out on a local road or highway. Maybe it’s the vacation atmosphere of the day; maybe it’s the lack of traffic lanes or speed limit signs.
Nevertheless, operating a vessel on the waterways of Indiana and Illinois means the boater is responsible for acting in a prudent way, and in a manner that will serve to avoid accidents and injuries to himself, his passengers, and those sharing the waterway with him. It’s amazing how often boat operators and their passengers forget this!
The Top Ten List of Bad Boating Behavior
In fact, the Indiana Natural Resources Commission has published its own list of “Ten Most Violated Boating Laws On Lake Michigan,” to demonstrate how often people fail to act reasonably on the waterway and put people in danger of injury. What’s on the list?
- Operating a Motorboat While Intoxicated
- Operating a Boat in a Reckless Manner
- Operating in Excess of 10-Miles-Per-Hour at Night
- Violation of the Restriction on Operations within 200 Feet of the Shoreline of Lake Michigan
- Entry into a No-Boat Zone
- Towing a Waterskier Unlawfully
- Failure to Have Sufficient Lawful Life Preservers (“Personal Floatation Devices” or “PFDs”) Onboard
- Operating a Personal Watercraft Unlawfully
- Riding Gunwales or Bow Decking
- Failure to Obtain or Produce a Motorboat Registration.
Boating Accident Victim: Claims for Damages Must Be Filed
For those who are injured in a boating accident, their injuries can be severe and life-threatening, and just as life-altering as those suffered by a victim of a car crash or semi-truck accident. People suffer things like spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and more in a boating accident. People die in boating accidents.
Accordingly, victims of a boating accident, or those acting on their behalf, need to be prepared to file damage claims against those responsible for their injuries. Maybe this is a negligence claim against a boat operator. Maybe it’s a product liability or defective product claim against a PWC manufacturer or boat maker because the vessel itself failed in some way at the time of the crash.
While failing to act responsibly in a boating accident can result in a criminal charge, that is not going to help the victim and his loved ones regarding damage assessments and awards. This is where the personal injury laws of Indiana and Illinois come into play. Be careful out there!