In Florida, boating accidents are treated much like car accidents. After a boating accident, the operator of the vessel must stop his vessel immediately, unless it would put the vessel, operator, or passengers in danger. They must also render aid to those who might be injured. They must also exchange information with the owner of the damaged property. If the accident resulted in the death or disappearance of a person, an injury requiring medical attention, or damage exceeding $2,000, the accident must be reported as soon as humanly possible. A report may be made to either the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the local Sheriff’s Department, or the local police.
Your Sun reports on a man charged with leaving the scene of a fatal boating accident. 75-year-old Robert Barnhart was arrested on May 31st after a fatal Charlotte Harbor boating accident that occurred in February.
The two-vessel collision occurred on February 28th in Charlotte Harbor in Lee County. The point of the collision was near the mouth of Jug Creek. In the arrest report, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission said that Barnhart witnessed the victim, Richard Niehaus in the water, waving for help, and did not stop.
Niehaus was driving his 18-foot Sea Squirt boat in the direction of Bokeelia at an unknown speed. Barnhart was driving a 31-foot Rampage Sportfishing boat towards Pace River at about 25 knots. The bow of Niehaus’ boat struck the middle of the boat being driven by Barnhart. Neihaus’ boat twisted to the side, tipping in the wake of Barnhart’s boat, tossing Niehaus overboard.
Barnhart assumed that Niehaus was attempting to jump his wake, and justified that as a reason for not stopping to offer aid. Fourteen minutes after the collision, a separate vessel noticed Niehaus floating, face down, in the water and pulled him from the lake. They attempted CPR and called 911. Niehaus was pronounced dead at the Four Winds Marina.
Barnhart was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident without giving aid and violation of a navigation rule that resulted in an accident.