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Young Boy Killed in Boating Accident

Putnam County officials recovered the body of a nine-year-old boy who was involved in a boating accident recently on the St. John’s River near East Palatka. Jonathan “Tate” Ricks, 9, was found at around 5:00 a.m. on Monday near where the accident had taken place two days prior. According to the Sheriff’s Office, Jonathan and his grandmother’s boyfriend were both knocked off of their boat when it capsized after being struck by a large wake.

Jonathan and his grandmother’s boyfriend were on a 14-foot johnboat when it was hit by a wake from a much larger vessel on the St. John’s River at around 5:30 p.m. near the U.S. 17 Memorial Bridge. The boyfriend attempted to help Jonathan but was unable to find him in the river. Once he made it to shore, the boyfriend was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission searched the river with underwater sonar and thermal imaging devices. Helicopters were also brought in to help with the search. The report from the investigation shows that neither Jonathan nor the boyfriend was wearing personal flotation devices at the time of the accident. Florida law requires that any child ages six years old and younger be required to wear such device at all times on a boat under 26 feet long, but every boat must have enough floatation devices for every passenger regardless of size.

Suzanne Guess, Jonathan’s grandmother, said that “he loves to fish, loves to ride four-wheelers, go hunting. He loves NASCAR. Just a fun-loving kid.” A public vigil was held Monday at the docks near the site of the accident, and so far no charges have been filed for the accident.

Florida Boating Accidents

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Annual Report, in 2013 there was a total of 736 reportable accidents and 62 deaths resulting from boating and personal watercraft accidents. The report states that most of the deaths could have been avoided if the victim was wearing a personal flotation device at the time of the accident. With 896,632 registered vessels and up to another million unregistered vessels in the waters around Florida, boating safety is critically important.

Florida law states that anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 is required to complete a boater education course before being allowed to drive a watercraft in the state. In addition, no one under the age of 14 years old is allowed to operate a personal watercraft like a Jet Ski, and no one under the age of 18 years old is allowed to rent one. Violations of these rules can result in the revocation of boating licenses or accidents out on the waterways.

Call a Florida Boating Accident Lawyer

If you or someone that you know has been injured in a boating or Jet Ski accident near Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, or West Palm Beach, let the experienced personal injury lawyers at The Pendas Law Firm help. Reach out to us today for more information.

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