He was one of baseball’s brightest young stars. Jose Fernandez was known for his bubbly personality and his devastating fastball. But his life was tragically cut short when he and two friends were killed in a boating accident off the coast of Miami Beach. The accident is currently under investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A spokesman had initially said drugs and alcohol were not involved. However, the recently completed toxicology reports have yet to be released to the public. Fernandez’s death brings to light the importance of boat safety.
South Floridians love the water. It is why so many people choose to live in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Boats have become a major part of our lifestyle. But unlike cars, the safety standards for boating are not nearly as strict. The consequences can be deadly. James Getz, who is a private investigating consultant of recreational boating accidents is helping with the Fernandez investigation. He is considered an expert on maritime accidents and has trained hundreds of marine police officers. According to Getz, most boating accidents are caused by operator error.
Whether you are a beginner or an expert boater in Fort Lauderdale, here are some basic safety tips to follow.
- Get a free vessel safety inspection: The United States Coast Guard offers free safety inspections. Inspectors look for whether the vessel has up-to-date safety gear and equipment. Inspections can be obtained at any local marina Boats that pass the safety inspection will receive a sticker, indicating the vessel is compliant with Florida and national safety regulations.
- Child Safety: Make sure all children and infants are wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times. Children should always be under adult supervision on the water. Make sure they are secure and not running around the vessel.
- Check Weather Conditions: Always stay in touch with local weather forecasts. South Florida’s climate is unique. A sunny day can quickly turn into a fierce thunderstorm in a matter of minutes. If the skies start to darken, do not take chances. Go back to the shore.
- Create a Float Plan: If you are planning to spend a significant amount of time on the water, it is important to keep a record of your trip and to give it to a friend or family member. A typical float plan includes your name, address, the time of departure, the make and model of the boat and the expected time of arrival. One of the best ways to record this information is to use a mobile app on your phone.
- Avoid Drinking Alcohol: Operating a boat is not much different than driving a car. Both require the operator to be fully alert and aware of their surroundings. Alcohol can impair a person’s reaction time and the ability to focus. Drinking and operating a boat is also illegal under maritime laws. The best decision is to save your drinking for later.
- Always Wear a Life Jacket: They may not be stylish or the most comfortable things to wear. But there is a reason why they are called life jackets. The majority of deaths from boating accidents in Fort Lauderdale involve people who did not wear their life jackets. Even if you are a very good swimmer, failing to wear a life jacket can be a fatal decision.
The death of Jose Fernandez was a tragic loss for his family and the people of South Florida. But there are lessons to be learned. Simply following the basics of boating safety could have prevented his boating accident. Whether you are a beginner or expert boater, take the time to prepare for your trip and always make safety your first priority.