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Firefighters sue FWC after Everglades airboat crash

2 firefighters want FWC to pay for pain, suffering

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(COURTESY OF SHAWN LEVINE AND HERBERT TYLER - SKY 10 - FEB. 3 FILE)

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Two veteran firefighters want the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to pay after a daytime Florida Everglades head-on collision earlier this year.

Shawn Levine has been a Fort Lauderdale firefighter for 15 years, and Herbert Tyler has been a West Palm Beach firefighter for nine years. They were traveling on an airboat when they collided with FWC biologist Rachel Young's airboat.

"Both vessels were traveling in opposite directions entering into and exiting a narrow channel," Broward Sheriff's Office marine unit Deputy Steve Salach said in his report.

The Broward Sheriff's Office investigation determined the crash was accidental and no charges were filed, records show. But the firefighters disagree and want at least $500,000 in damages.

Tyler tried to avoid the crash; Young steered straight into them at a high rate of speed, attorney Daniel Lustig said. Young said she turned to the left and saw Levine also turning to the left, according to Salach.

"The FWC employee then continued to operate the FWC airboat around Mr. Tyler's airboat and directly over Ms. Levine's body," Lustig said.

The impact propelled Levine and one of two FWC passengers, Caitlyn Kupferman, into the swamp water, according to the BSO. Tyler suffered head and back injuries when his head struck the front seat, Lustig said.

Both firefighters were seriously injured in the February crash. Tyler suffered serious head and spinal injuries. Levine suffered severe and permanent damage to her right leg and has undergone at least three surgeries. She has been unable to work.

DOCUMENT: Firefighters lawsuit against FWC (Graphic Content)

FWC spokeswoman Katie Purcell said she wasn't able to comment on the pending litigation.

Lustig sent a notice of claim to the FWC on behalf of the firefighters Feb. 16. They estimated the damages at more than $500,000. After the FWC failed to respond, the firefighters filed a civil lawsuit in Broward County court.