Airboat Overturns in Everglades National Park in Florida

by | Apr 2, 2024 | Maritime Law, Personal Injury

There was an accident involving an airboat in Everglades National Park in West Miami-Dade County, Florida on March 29, 2024.  According to reports, an airboat overturned while attempting to make a turn, throwing its passengers into the water.  Luckily a nearby samaritan was able to rescue the occupants from the alligator-infested waters.  The operator of the boat was arrested later that night, for failing to have a Coast Guard license or having taken boating safety course.

Airboats, often used for navigating shallow waters and marshy areas, present unique risks due to their design and operational environment. One of the most significant hazards associated with airboats is their potential to overturn during a turn. This risk stems from the flat-bottomed design of the boat, which allows for excellent maneuverability in shallow waters but can become unstable in sharp turns, especially at high speeds. The physics of an airboat’s turn differs markedly from that of other vessels; the lack of a deep hull means there is less resistance against lateral movements, increasing the likelihood of capsizing if a turn is executed too quickly or sharply. This characteristic demands a high level of skill and caution from the operator to navigate safely and avoid overturning the vessel.

Adding to the inherent risks of airboat operation is the environment in which they are typically used. Airboats are popular in areas with dense vegetation and shallow waters, like swamps and marshes, where obstacles such as submerged logs, vegetation, and even shallow banks can pose serious hazards during navigation. When an airboat encounters such an obstacle during a turn, the risk of overturning is exacerbated, potentially leading to accidents. Operators need to be constantly vigilant of their surroundings and maintain a safe speed that allows them to react promptly to unexpected obstacles, minimizing the risk of capsizing.

Furthermore, the safety of passengers on airboats is heavily reliant on the use of personal flotation devices (PFDs) and adherence to safety instructions. Given the risk of overturning, especially during turns, it is imperative that all passengers are equipped with PFDs and understand how to react in case of an emergency. Operators should provide clear safety briefings before departure, emphasizing the importance of holding onto the boat and staying low during turns. Despite the thrill and unique experience airboats offer, prioritizing safety through proper operation, environmental awareness, and preparedness can significantly mitigate the risks involved, ensuring a safer journey for everyone aboard.

There have been a number of recent incidents involving vessels.  There was an amputation injury on a fishing boat off the coast of Sonoma, California on March 17, 2024.  Two crew members were killed in an incident on board the Holland America Cruise Ship Nieuw Amsterdam on March 22, 2024.  There was a fire on board the Carnival Cruise ship CARNIVAL FREEDOM on March 23, 2024.  The container ship DALI struck the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, Maryland on March 25, 2024.  There was a fire on board the United States Naval Logistics Vessel USNS Sergeant William R. Button on March 28, 2024.

It can be dangerous to work in any industry when safety considerations are not taken seriously.  Safe offshore vessel owners and operators must ensure that their ships do not put the lives of hard working men and women at risk.  Safe companies must be proactive and take preventative measures, including regular maintenance and repairs, to also ensure that the environment is not impacted.

Even when a company has practices and procedures in place to prevent incidents like this, mishaps such as the one described above are cannot be completely eliminated.  All too often, human error and negligence are the reasons for these vessel collisions.  Whether it is due to poor judgment, a normalization of deviance from the proper procedures or a lack of proper rest and recovery, humans err and sometimes these errors result in the property damage, injury or death.  Operating modern sea vessels is not an inherently unsafe act as long as those responsible do so in such a manner that is not negligent. When the operation of sea vessels is conducted in a negligent manner, it does not take long for the situation to become dangerous.

Our experienced lawyers handle maritime personal injury and wrongful death litigation of all kinds and the skills needed to represent the families of loved ones who have lost their lives or those who have been seriously injured as a result of a maritime accident. The lawyers of Spagnoletti Law Firm have handled maritime lawsuits throughout the country.

The experienced and aggressive vessel accident attorneys at Spagnoletti Law Firm can help you understand your rights if you or a loved one was a victim of an accident on a ship. There are strict and short time limits on making claims related to maritime injuries, so please contact us online or call 713-804-9306 or to learn more about your rights.