Alleged drunken boater puts child’s life in danger

The story of a Satellite Beach man arrested for drunken boating and smashing up his craft earlier this month gets kudos for the spectacular crash and the explanation he offered to Indian Harbor Beach police for nearly killing his 4 year-old daughter. The 36 year-old skipper is accused of smashing his 19-foot boat into a dock, throwing him overboard. The vessel, still under power and with the terrified child aboard, ran through a mango grove and crashed in the backyard of a home, stopping about three feet from a screen porch. Responding officers say the man, smelling of alcohol and slurring his words, told them his propeller got tangled in a lobster trap. He jumped overboard, the suspect said, to untangle the prop and when he did, the boat inexplicably accelerated. The homeowner said the man had the presence of mind to beg her not to call the police.

Back at the police station officials say the man failed a sobriety test and refused to take a breath test. A records check found he had three previous convictions for driving a car while drunk, and was on probation for the most recent DWI at the time of his maritime mishap. Because of those, police charged him with felony boating under the influence, as well as BUI with property damage, child abuse, and violating his probation.

Fortunately the little girl was not hurt, and the Florida Department of Children and Families has been called in to investigate. Her father faces stiffer penalties for having a child onboard while allegedly driving drunk. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says boating while drunk and driving while drunk are the same in the eyes of the law, so the man’s offenses on land compound his situation on the water.

Florida leads the nation in boating fatalities. Last year 79 people died, almost twice as many as second-place California. The Fish and Wildlife Commission is realistic about what people like to do on boats so they recommend designating a sober operator if passengers want to drink or use drugs. The FWC warns that the sun, waves and glare can actually intensify alcohol’s effects, and boats are not as maneuverable as cars.

Source: Florida Today, “Satellite Beach man crashes boat with daughter aboard into backyard,” Andrew Ford, Dec. 5, 2012