A recent airboat ride in Florida ended in tragedy. While details are scarce the April 02, 2020, post by [email protected] [815-987-5330] with WIRF.COM, provides the Sofola family, Keith (father), Karen (mother), Luke (son) and Lexi (daughter), while vacationing in Florida first enjoyed a morning swimming with manatees followed by an airboat ride and collision described by Keith as, “Immediately there was another boat right there.”
A head-on collision followed, tossing the Solofo family from the boat. Fortunately, the two children, Luke and Lexi, suffered minor injuries. However, Karen and Luke were not so fortunate. After realizing what had occurred, Keith yelled to his son Luke, who responded, “Dad, mom’s hurt.” Karen at the time was clinging to her son while still in the water. Karen’s legs were broken, and her left foot was severed.
Keith suffered broken facial bones, a severe concussion and broken arm. Despite his injuries, Keith hoisted his wife onto a boat, apparently belonging to a “good samaritan,” who say what happened and quickly came to the aid of the Sofola’s family.
As of this past Thursday, Karen has undergone six surgeries the most recent or all being performed at OSF Saint Anthony’s Hospital in Rockford, Illinois. Karen was transported from Hudson Florida to Rockford due the the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida.
Karen is a social worker at Harlem High School, where a coworker took it upon himself to create a gofundme page to help the family.
The Maritime Personal Injury attorneys at the Brais Law Firm sincerely wish the Sofola family, in particular Karen and Keith, well and a speedy recovery. While now is the time to focus all attention and efforts on the health, well being and hopeful recovery of the Sofola family, there may be the day when the questions are asked, “Why did this happen” and “Who should rightly be held accountable for the serious injuries suffered?” Depending upon the location of the airboat at the time of collision, Maritime Law may well govern this claim. It is a little known fact that many of the waterways in Florida utilized by airboat tour operators in the State of Florida are considered “navigable waterways” and, thus must adhere to Navigable Rules, including: Rule 5 (Look-out), Rule 6 (Safe Speed), Rule 7 (Risk of Collision), Rule 8 (Action to Avoid Collision), Rule 14 (Head-on Situation), Rule 15 (Crossing Situation), and more. Even if the collision occurred on an inland body of water, not considered a navigable waterway, these same Rules will be looked to as evidence of whether one or both of the vessel’s captains operated their craft in a reasonable and safe manner. The firm just handled and successfully resolved a nearly identify airboat collision case involving numerous passengers injured while on a airboat tour. See, Complaint filed in Roger Avery, et. al. v. #1 Tom & Jerry’s Airboat Rides, LLC, Case No. 2019-CA-000133, in the Circuit Court for the 5th Judicial Circuit in and for Sumter County, Florida. Maritime Law is an esoteric and complex area of the law, so much so the Florida Bar in 1996 created a Specialized Certification program. Keith Brais the founding partner of the Brais Law firm is and has been since 1996 a Board Certified Admiralty & Maritime Attorney in the State of Florida.
There are many other inquires that would need to be made in the interest of protecting the right of the Sofala family, to wit: was there a Pre-Ride Release and Waiver signed before the tour, if so, and under the circumstances is the Release & Waiver valid and enforceable, will the vessel (airboat) owner be able to limit its liability, and more.
If you our a loved one has been injured or worse as a result of a boating, PWC or airboat collision in the State of Florida, the Maritime Personal Injury attorneys at Brais Law Firm stand ready to help. At the Brais Law Firm, our attorneys have decades of experience, strong peer review credentials and results that demonstrate our level of commitment on behalf of our clients. The Firm’s credentials, include an “AV” Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell and Board Certification in maritime law. Call us at 800-499-0551 or click Contact Us and complete a confidential and free online consultation form.