A Florida man was killed in an airboat accident in early April after becoming trapped under the vessel. The Brevard County accident is under investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). By the time anyone noticed an issue, the man had drowned.
This accident demonstrates the unique dangers airboats present, and serves as a reminder that boat operators and passengers should brush up on their boating safety skills before heading out onto the water.
Airboats and boating accidents
Boating accidents are all too common in Florida, where waterways are plentiful. Airboats are especially prone to tilting and flipping due to their higher center of gravity. Instead of a propeller in the water, which thrusts water under the boat, airboats use an airplane-like propellor to thrust air behind the boat and above the water. This allows the airboats to venture into shallower water than traditional boats—but it also requires extra caution from the boat operator.
The FWC requires airboat operators go through specific training courses before going out on the water. If you’re planning to buy or rent an airboat, you will need to complete the required courses.
According to the FWC, there were 55 commercial airboat accidents from 2007 through 2017, resulting in two fatalities and 130 injured people. Accidents are most commonly caused by collisions with fixed objects (such as tree branches or roots) or other airboats. Excessive speed and inattention commonly contributed to these collisions: airboats are more likely to flip when traveling at high speeds. It’s also easier to miss potential hazards when speeding or paying attention elsewhere. Limited visibility also played a role in these accidents—operators should slow down when the path forward is unclear.
Finally, “grounding” accidents—when the airboat transitions from water to land—can occur when the operator is speeding, inexperienced or simply misses an obstruction.
If you’ve been injured in an airboat accident, contact an experienced Sarasota, FL personal injury lawyer at Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, Murphy & Walsh today.