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Pinellas ranks fifth in number of serious boating accidents

Eric Reynolds, of Brooksville, left, and Lucas Cowden, of Palm Harbor, launch Reynolds’ boat from the Seminole Boat Ramp in Clearwater. Florida leads the nation with 915,713 registered boats.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2015)

Eric Reynolds, of Brooksville, left, and Lucas Cowden, of Palm Harbor, launch Reynolds’ boat from the Seminole Boat Ramp in Clearwater. Florida leads the nation with 915,713 registered boats.

Pinellas County ranked fifth among Florida's 67 counties in 2015 for the number of boating accidents, according to a report by the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission.

In its 2015 Boating Accidents Statistical Report, the agency listed 46 "reportable" boating accidents in Pinellas, for a rate of 1 per 1,078 registered vessels.

The agency defines "reportable" as any accident involving death, injury, loss of a boat or causing more than $2,000 in damage.

In 2015, there were two boating fatalities in Pinellas, two fewer than in 2014. Overall, the county's number of accidents dropped by seven from the previous year, even though the number of registered vessels climbed by 1,147.

Hillsborough County ranked 14th in the number of reportable accidents with 16 and had no fatalities. Pasco ranked 18th with 12 accidents and had three boating fatalities. Hernando ranked 31st with 5 accidents and had one fatality.

Statewide, the number of serious boating accidents increased to 737 — 103 more than in 2014. Florida leads the nation with 915,713 registered boats, and estimates of more than 1 million unregistered craft (kayaks, canoes and paddleboards).

Broward and the Keys were the deadliest places in Florida to be in a boat last year.

Monroe County had five boating-related deaths in 2015, sharing the dubious honor with Broward County as the deadliest waters in the state.

Statewide, the number of 2015 boating deaths declined to 55, nearly a 25 percent drop from the 73 boating deaths in 2014. Dive or snorkel deaths do not count toward the boating statistics.

The report ranked Miami-Dade first and Monroe second in the number of reportable accidents. Miami-Dade had 96 major accidents last year, causing $3 million in damage with three deaths and 74 injuries. Monroe had 78 reportable accidents, causing the five deaths and 48 injuries. Broward County (57 accidents, five deaths, 42 injuries) ranked third among the state's 67 counties.

"Nearly half of boating accidents in 2015 involved collisions and 34 percent of all collisions were due to inattention or the operator failing to maintain a proper look-out," according to the FWC report.

Lt. Seth Wagner of the FWC's Boating and Waterways Section said, "It is critical for operators to maintain a proper lookout and focus on what is going on around their boat at all times."

More than half of Florida's 55 boating deaths were attributed to drowning. "The message is clear: Life jackets save lives," an FWC spokesman said.

Serious boating accidents caused $487,000 in property damage in Hillsborough last year, compared with $219,600 in Pinellas, $74,700 in Pasco and $13,548 in Hernando.

Meanwhile, the number of registered vessels continued to grow in Tampa Bay waters.

Vessels in Pinellas climbed from 47,363 in 2014 to 48,510 in 2015, Hillsborough edged up a bit from 40,517 to 40,563, Pasco saw its boats rise from 23,503 to 23,635 and Hernando had its boats jump from to 8,908 to 9,368.

Overall, the number of Tampa Bay boats rose by 1.5 percent to 122,076.

While Pinellas saw its accidents drop from 2014, Hillsborough's accidents rose from 13 to 16 and Pasco's accidents climbed from 7 to 12. Incredibly, despite Hernando registering 460 more vessels, its number of accidents dropped by two.

Information from the Miami Herald was included in this report.

Pinellas ranks fifth in number of serious boating accidents 05/22/16 [Last modified: Sunday, May 22, 2016 10:19pm]
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