In 2014, Florida boating regulations changed their requirements for how divers notify vessels they are in an area. The legislation was passed as a means of increasing diver visibility. The previous law required only a “divers down flag” and divers had to stay within a certain range of the flags. Now, divers who are diving independently of a vessel may choose to use the flags or a buoy. Divers who are diving from a vessel may only use flags. Vessels must maintain a certain distance from the flags for diver safety. This distance for either divers or vessels is typically within 100 feet of the buoy or the flag.
The Palm Beach Post reports that reports differ on whether or not a boater saw diving flags before hitting a snorkeler.
On Thanksgiving Day, a 36-foot Yellowfin was operating south along the Palm Beach Coast with 30-year-old Daniel Stanton at the helm. The boat ran over 25-year-old marine biologist Carter Viss as he was snorkeling.
Viss’ right arm was severed, and he also suffered injuries to his legs. He is still in the intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Medical Center.
Stanton said that he did not see any diving flags that would warn him of Viss’ location. A statement from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission stated that upon noticing dive flags, the vessel began to slow down, and this is when it struck Viss.
The Yellowfin has been taken by the FWC as a part of its investigation. A police officer made a statement that he observed several cans of Truly Hard Seltzer on board the vessel.
Witnesses say that there was at least one flag in the water and as many as three when the boat ran over Viss. Stanton stopped after striking Viss, bringing him on board his boat and taking him to the beach. Another snorkeler found Viss’ arm, which has been reattached.