Boat Accident

Two Boat Passengers Die in Florence Pontoon Boat Accident

A pontoon boat collided with a barge on a Saturday evening in August on Wilson Lake near Florence, sending all eight passengers of the pontoon boat overboard. While crewmembers of the barge were able to rescue six of the pontoon boat passengers from the water, 62-year-old Sid Elliot and 79-year-old Catherine Ekholm did not survive the aftermath of the crash, and their bodies were found in the days following the accident. All six of the other passengers were taken to hospitals to be treated for injuries.

Reports indicated that the eight passengers were members of two families who had taken the boat, which was owned by the Ekholm family, for a tour of the lake. The boat, which had recently undergone maintenance, was turned off mid-journey to facilitate star-gazing, but when the operators attempted to start the boat back up, it failed to do so. The boat passengers saw the barge headed their way, and the barge honked and flashed its lights at the boat, but it was too late to avoid a collision between the barge and the boat.

Unfortunately, these types of boating accidents are all too common in Alabama and across the country, and boating accidents are in fact the second leading type of transportation accidents behind car and truck accidents. The US Coast Guard has reported that, in 2014 alone, there were 4,064 boating accidents involving 610 deaths, 2,670 injuries, and tens of millions of dollars of property damage. Where the cause of death was known, 78% of deaths attributable to boating accidents were due to drowning, and of those victims that died, 84% were not wearing a life jacket. The leading types of boating accidents were: 1) collision with a recreational vessel (937 accidents); 2) flooding/swamping (463 accidents); 3) collision with a fixed object (452 accidents); 4) grounding (359 accidents); and 5) skier mishap (292 accidents).

When a boating accident occurs, resulting in death and/or injury, certain parties may be liable for those losses. An operator who negligently or recklessly operates a boat, either due to inexperience, alcohol, or some other factor, can be liable for failing to meet a standard of care in operating the boat. If the operator is an employee working on behalf of a tour or rental company, the employer may be liable as well under a vicarious liability theory or for negligently hiring or negligently supervising the operator. A rental company or maintenance company may also be liable for negligently maintaining the boat, which could result in a situation like the one in Florence where a boat is unable to maneuver out of harm’s way. Finally, the seller or manufacturer of a boat may liable for all parties’ injuries if there were defects present in the boat when it was sold to the owner of the boat.

If you or a loved one has been in injured in a boating accident, contact the skilled Montgomery, Alabama personal injury attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum for a free consultation at 334-262-1911.