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Boat involved in fatal accident had been owned by family for only a month

Published Jul. 19, 2012

REDINGTON BEACH — The Noah family had had the boat for about a month.

They called it Serenity Now.

On Tuesday, Brandon Noah, 15, decided to take it for a ride. His parents weren't home, but he knew where the keys were.

The 24-foot boat was pulling an inner-tube carrying two teenage girls when the tube slammed into a dock, killing one of Brandon's friends.

Investigators with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday attributed the cause of the accident to inexperience.

"This is real tragic," said Brandon's father, Jason Noah. He declined to comment further.

•••

The boat keys were kept in a jar at the family's one-story, gray home on Wall Street in Redington Shores.

Sometime about 1 p.m. Tuesday, Brandon got into the boat, a 2004 World Cat with twin Suzuki engines, with his friends and took off. Noah Epstein, 15, was a passenger. Deviny Boese, 15, and Sarah Dobbs, 16, held onto the inner-tube pulled by the boat.

Witnesses said the boat navigated toward the docks at the Redington Shores Yacht and Tennis Club on Gulf Boulevard. Brandon tried to turn, but the tube flipped and slammed into a dock, throwing the girls off.

Deviny struck a piling, sheriff's investigators said.

Bystanders rushed to pull the girls onto a small pier, witnesses said. Blood stained the water.

Brandon performed CPR on Deviny before paramedics arrived, but she died moments later.

Except for Jason Noah, the teens and their parents could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"Kids shouldn't be driving boats," said Rick Ranger, 55, a maintenance worker at the club who was there at the time of the crash.

•••

In Florida, a license is not required to operate a boat. Anyone can take a boating course and obtain a boating safety education identification card.

Even that's not required, unless the boater was born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, and is operating a boat with an engine of 10 horsepower or greater, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

Brandon never acquired the certification. His family's boat operates on 280 horsepower, the Sheriff's Office said.

"It's not tied to the driver's license," said wildlife commission boating safety coordinator Brian Rehwinkel. "That identification card is simply a certification of completion."

There are no age restrictions to sign up for the card, and boaters under the age of 18 don't need parental consent.

In Florida, 27,062 cards were issued in 2011, according to a wildlife commission report released last week.

Of that number, 7,548 were issued to people 16 or younger.

•••

Brandon Noah has been cited for not having proper identification, a noncriminal offense, and reckless operation of a vessel resulting in a fatality, a misdemeanor.

On Wednesday, the boat, up on davits, could be seen from the front door of the Noahs' home.

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Times news researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

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