Lucy Fernandez, a South Florida high school senior, passed away Monday from injuries she sustained in a Sunday night boating accident off Cutler Bay. As reported by USA Today, the boat, a 28-foot Robalo center console hit a channel marker near Boca Chita Key and capsized. The incident left eleven people injured, four critically. Per NBC Miami, two other seniors from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, Katy Puig and Coco Aguilar, remain hospitalized as well as another student from Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission continues to investigate but it is not believed alcohol contributed to the collision.
Boat operators – just like car drivers – have a duty to exercise reasonable care when operating their vessels so as to avoid causing injury to others. The Rules of the Road established by the Coast Guard define the roles and responsibilities of vessel operators. For example, they call for operators to lookout or post a lookout by designating someone to watch for dangers that may come from any direction, to maintain a safe speed, and to make certain maneuvers and/or signals to avoid collisions. This tragic case involves a vessel striking a fixed object which in maritime parlances is an “allision,” not a collision and triggers an esoteric maritime presumption of liability, sometimes referred to as “The Pennsylvania Rule.”
Holiday weekends tend to attract busy boating in South Florida. We offer our sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of the individuals involved. Since boating accidents are governed by Maritime Law, we recommend the families seek out an experienced maritime practitioner if and when they are ready to do so, preferably one who is Board Certified in Admiralty and Maritime Law.