Florida leads country in boating deaths

2 dead over holiday weekend.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With many on the river over the holiday weekend, there were two deaths in St. Johns County, and another boater missing in Duval where crews continue to search the river.

These kinds of happenings are not rare to Florida, who leads the country in boating deaths.

"A lot of the time we don't see boaters that have life jackets or enough life jackets on board fore everybody," said Florida Fish and Wildlife Lt. Paul Arkin. "They don't have fire extinguishers or throwable flotation if somebody falls overboard."

In a fish and wildlife report 67 people were killed in Florida waters in 2011. The majority of those are men over the age of 35.

"We see alcohol related boating accidents with inexperienced boaters and with the most experienced boaters," said Arkin.

Drinking while boating has been a factor in many crashes. In 2009, there was a crash in Palm Valley that killed five and injured nine. In that incident, the operator of the boat was inexperienced

A crash in Black Creek a few years killed two as well, but alcohol isn't the only cause.

Florida's regulations for boating are lax compared to many other states. Those born before July of 1988 don't even need to take a boater safety coarse. Many boaters think rules like this could be improved.

"I think it probably needs to be addressed," said a Florida boater. "Take a look at it. We don't need a lot of regulations to tie us all up, but we certainly need to take a look if we are having more deaths."

Not everyone wants Tallahassee lawmakers involved.

Another boater said, "I'm in a rubber dingy. I'd have to have three major failures for that thing to sink. And have to have 3 life preservers to row across the river -- I think that's ridiculous."

Steve Pike doesn't want any changes either. "Somebody jumps off their boat into a river and drowns and some politician thinks he has to make a regulation to protect the next person that comes along," said Pike.