Contributors

Charles R. Lipcon
Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years. Read More »
Jason R. Margulies
Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Ricardo V. Alsina
Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Michael A. Winkleman
Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes. Read More »

Articles Posted in Boating Accidents

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American flagOur maritime lawyers would like to take this moment to wish everyone a happy and safe 4th of July. Independence Day is an incredible holiday. After all, it celebrates the birth of our nation. Many of us will enjoy the holiday at home, while some of us may go out and enjoy the great outdoors. And naturally, since the holiday falls during summertime, some of the most popular activities on the 4th of July involve the water, including boating, water skiing, parasailing and kayaking.

Water activities are a lot of fun, especially on a holiday like the 4th, when beaches and lakes are packed with people of all ages enjoying the day with their loved ones. Of course, many will be enjoying alcohol and fireworks as well. Unfortunately, when you combine heavy marine traffic, drinking and fireworks, sometimes things can get out of hand. It’s important to keep safety in mind while celebrating, especially if your plans involve water sports and activities.

Statistics show that more boating accidents occur on Independence Day than any other holiday. Waterways are going to be extremely crowded, and it can be tempting to overcrowd vessels. Each state has specific maritime laws that govern water activities, including how fast vessels and Jet Skis can be operated, the minimum age of operators, how many people can ride on a boat or watercraft, etc. There are also laws regarding alcohol consumption, which can lead to boaters and watercraft operators getting charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI).

Some people may not be aware of the fact that there are laws that govern alcohol consumption on waterways, just as there are regulations for consuming alcohol while operating a motor vehicle on land. Through not all state laws impose strict laws as far as punishment for those found guilty of BUI, it’s important to refrain from any alcohol consumption if you are planning on operating a watercraft or vessel.

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Coast Guard searches for boating accident victimsIn our last blog installment, we discussed a fatal boating accident that took place in the Cal-Sag Channel, near Palos Hills, Illinois on Friday night. According to police, a 19-foot pleasure craft collided with a 66-foot commercial towing barge at around 11 pm last Friday night, causing the pleasure craft to capsize. The bodies of two victims, Jeremy Muzika and Viengsavanh Bielarz, have already been recovered, but police initially believed there may have been others that were still missing as of Saturday. We have yet to learn whether or not any other victims were recovered, but as of now, only two fatalities have been recorded, and the victims had both been riding in the pleasure craft. No word on whether anyone on the barge sustained injuries.

Though investigators are still searching for answers as to the nature of the accident, there are several factors that could have contributed to the terrible crash, many of which stem from negligence.

According to one of the victims’ brothers, Greg Bielarz, the group had a tendency to “go out boating every week.” Bielarz added that the group was aware of the frequent presence of barges and noted that “things happen.” This is a rather odd thing to say given the fact that his brother (who may have also been the owner of the vessel) and his brother’s wife were on the boat.

Officials are not releasing the names of the missing boaters as of yet, but continue to hope for the best with the search.

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Coast Guard searches for boating accident victimsOur boating accident attorneys are saddened to hear of a disturbing incident that occurred near Palos Hills, Illinois on Friday night. As of today, three people are believed to be missing and two were killed after their boat capsized in the Cal-Sag Channel.

According to Coast Guard reports, the 19-foot vessel collided with a 66-foot commercial towing barge at around 11 pm Friday night. Someone near the accident scene reportedly heard a loud noise and alerted police, and authorities rushed to the scene to determine what happened. Though investigators found the wreckage, none of the victims were seen initially.

Police report there were at least three people on the pleasure craft, but believed there may have been two others onboard. The search was conducted for five people.

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Boat propellerWhat began as a selfless act to help a struggling group of boaters turned tragic for one South Florida man this weekend. Ernesto Hernandez, only 23 years old, was killed on Sunday while trying to aid local Miami celebrity DJ Laz, whose vessel became stuck on a sandbar on Nixon Island. According to police, Hernandez, a bodyguard, was one of three people who tried to help push the 40-foot pleasure boat back out to sea when he was fatally struck by the vessel’s propellers.

Jorge Pino, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), explained Hernandez sustained severe injuries to his entire torso. The victim was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital via helicopter, but later died from his wounds.

Authorities are investigating the boating accident but we have yet to learn whether negligence was involved in the tragedy. If so, criminal charges could be filed, especially if anyone operating the vessel was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

We don’t know yet who the owner of the vessel is, but what we do know is that DJ Laz, whose real name is Lazaro Mendez, was in control of the boat at some point. Though everyone at the scene of the accident should have been issued a breath or blood test to determine if anyone was intoxicated, it appears as though this critical step was not taken.

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water activitiesThere are many factors that can result in an accident at sea. Some are caused by an inexperienced captain and crew, while others result from unfavorable conditions. Below are some of the most common factors contributing to maritime accidents throughout the world, including cruise ship, cargo vessel and pleasure craft accidents:

Inexperience

No matter what state you live in, there are strict maritime laws that govern pleasure craft activities. In addition to those laws, there are international maritime regulations that oversee the operation of cruise and cargo ships to ensure not only the safety of those onboard the vessels, but the safety of anyone else in the vicinity. From the smallest boat to the largest passenger ship in the world, one of the main rules everyone must abide by when manning the helm is the fact that a minimum amount of experience is required. There can be both age limits and experience restrictions when it comes to operating vessels in open water. Inexperience has resulted in many accidents at sea, mostly due to the fact that if a pilot or crew member does not have the sufficient expertise in responding to emergency situations, such as inclement weather or a collision, they will not understand how to maneuver out of the emergency. Yet, these types of accidents continue to occur. Continue reading →

questionA boat and a cruise ship went out to sea…sounds like the beginning of a silly joke, but we assure you, humorous is far from how we would describe a recent accident involving a boat and a cruise ship.  According to reports, three sailors were out at sea in Swedish waters last week when their boat collided with a Viking Line cruise ship. Tiny boat versus 1,800 plus passenger ship? This has disaster written all over it.   But while this maritime accident could have turned out much worse, miraculously, no serious injuries were reported.

News sources say the mariners were sailing in the Stockholm archipelago around midday on Saturday when their boat collided with the Viking ship, which was en route to Finland. Though the boat sunk after crashing with the Viking ship, the sailors were lucky to escape this perilous accident relatively unscathed – and even luckier to have been rescued right away. Locals from the island of Marö, just 200 meters away from the accident scene, witnessed the collision and immediately sailed out to assist the victims. Emergency crews were also quick to respond.

The trio, two men and a woman, were rescued from the frigid waters and brought back to the island, where they were given dry clothes and treated for shock. They were then transported to a local hospital for further treatment, but from what our firm has heard, no one sustained any serious injuries. For that matter, we don’t know if the victims even suffered any injuries at all. This is an extremely rare occurrence, especially considering the fact that even what would appear to be minor boating accidents often result in debilitating – if not fatal – injuries.  Perhaps even more remarkably,  the boaters didn’t even appear to have been wearing life jackets.

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MotorboatBoating accidents can happen at a moment’s notice. But while some are the result of unforeseeable circumstances, like sudden changes in weather or an unexpected mechanical problem, the unfortunate majority stem from someone’s negligence by not abiding by proper safety laws.  Reckless operation, intoxication, failure to pay attention, and speeding are just a few of the many factors that can lead to serious – if not fatal – accidents on rivers, lakes and oceans.

When it comes to protecting communities from the devastating effects of a boating accident, there are several things both governments and citizens can do to stay safe. Citizens, for example, can exercise the greatest caution possible when out in the waters, minding their surroundings, refraining from drinking, and horsing around. As far as government entities, each state has its own specific guidelines when it comes to boating, but for most, there are general regulations across the board, including age minimums for operators, minimum experience acceptable for boating, as well as strict laws regarding Boating under the Influence (BUI).

No one is above the law when it comes to safety violations in open water channels, not even police officers.  Unfortunately, one officer learned this lesson the hard way last summer.

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gondola accidentIt’s no secret that environmentalists and residents in Venice, Italy are not a fan of large cruise ships. For years, activists have been trying to stop cruise lines from calling on the delicate lagoon city for fear that the growing size of ships is destroying the city’s ecosystem and integrity. Venice is one of the most popular ports of call for cruise travelers, but the constant presence of cruise ships has threatened to erode the city’s foundations with the continual displacement of water.

Residents also argue that the presence of large cruise ships is distracting and diminishes their quality of life. Matteo Secchi, head of the pro-Venice group Venessia that is working on banning all cruise ships from the city, once stated that “The vibration from the maxi-ships feels like small earthquakes under your feet.”

But while not much has been done to actually stop cruise ship calls on Venice, a recent accident might just do the trick.

According to an article in the Italian news source Medi Telegraph, the MSC cruise ship Preziosa was involved in an accident at the port of Venice. The ship apparently collided with a large passenger walkway, destroying the walkway – along with the cruise industry’s hopes of continuing calls in Venice, most likely.

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Fishing boatSpring is here and many excited boaters are getting ready to hit the waterways. But as boating season quickly kicks into gear, there are things that all boaters should do each time they head out in order to reduce their risks of getting into a situation where their safety is at issue, and to be able to better their odds of rescue or survival if they end up in trouble out on the water. Our boating accident lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina, & Winkleman, P.A. know that accidents occur at a moment’s notice, however being adequately prepared for them is only second to taking the right steps to prevent them all together.

Last week, three boats partaking in The Bass Federation (TBF) fishing tournament in Lake Powell were reported missing, but due to inclement weather conditions, a rescue mission couldn’t be carried out right away. The missing anglers finally made it back to shore when the weather cleared up, but the incident reminds us that boating is not a risk free endeavor – even for those with experience.

One of the anglers that was caught up in the storm decided to share his story, and from his tale, we learned that several small mistake can lead to a very serious consequences.

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MotorboatThough it’s not quite boating season across America, here in Florida, the Miami maritime attorneys at our firm know to expect tons of eager boating fans who spend ample time in the open waters. But although the perks of being in Florida are great for individuals who enjoy being out on their personal water crafts, it’s not always just plain fun.

Boating accidents can happen at a moment’s notice, and unfortunately, many of these accidents end badly. For many reasons, boaters can become severely injured on the water, but it’s important to understand each state’s maritime laws in order to remain as safe as possible. Accidents can be caused by a number of factors, such as unfavorable weather conditions and faulty equipment, but the majority of the time,  accidents result from negligence.

Speeding, pilot inexperience and intoxication are all factors that can contribute to an accident. And failure to wear a lifejacket is the main reason why victims don’t survive. Even in the most dire of circumstances, a lifejacket can keep a victim afloat long enough for them to be rescued. Many boaters become unconscious following a serious crash, and their lifejackets are the only protection.

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