Florida teen killed in boat crash: How to lessen risks of late-night boating

Five others were injured in the crash around midnight Wednesday night. Officials have yet to determine the cause of the incident, but darkness likely played a major role in the accident.

Wilfredo Lee/AP/File
A fishing boat heads out to the Atlantic Ocean near Miami as dark clouds loom in the distance, Sept. 12, 2014. A Florida teen was killed in a late-night boating accident Wednesday. Officials say that darkness likely played a significant role in the crash.

A nighttime excursion turned into tragedy for a group of Florida teenagers when a small boat crashed into a bridge late Wednesday night. One person was killed in the crash and five others were injured, three of them critically.

The crash occurred shortly after midnight on the Middle River near Ft. Lauderdale, the Sun Sentinel reported. The teens had set off around 10:30 p.m. and hit a bridge near a fork in the river, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Amanda Phillips told the Sun Sentinel.

Brett Bartholomew, a friend of the teens involved in the accident, told the South Florida paper that his friends were all experienced boaters.

"We go on this River like every day pretty much. I guess it was just dark, you know. It's tough,” he said.

Officials have not yet identified the cause of the accident, but Ms. Phillips said the fact that some of the boaters were standing at the time of the accident suggested that darkness likely played a larger role in the crash than speed.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association offers several tips for staying safe during nighttime boat rides.

  • Slow down: Familiar landmarks can disappear at night, making it easier to run off-course. Floating debris can also be harder to see. Slowing down can help maintain control in a tricky environment.
  • Minimize distractions: Dim the interior lights and look above the windshield. A loud stereo can be a hazard if it drowns out the horn of an unseen boat.
  • Careful with the high beams: Powerful lights, whether mounted or handheld, can help spot hazards in the water, but they can also make it difficult for other boaters to see your navigation lights and even blind approaching captains.
  • Use a compass: Explore unfamiliar waters in clear conditions during the day and make note of the compass direction from your home port.
  • Learn navigation lights: Red, green, and white navigation lights indicate whether a boat is coming toward, away from, or crossing the path of your boat. A red light indicates that another boat has the right of way. A red and green light together means that the boat is coming head-on directly toward your boat and you should alter course. A white light indicates that the boat is moving away.
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