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Lake Eloise Boat Rental Accident Highlights Need for Driver Training

Two men drowned in Lake Eloise on a rough, windy day after becoming separated from their boat.  The men had rented the boat that day on Lake Eloise and apparently took a driver education class before the rental.  Despite the class, Polk County Sheriff’s department is describing the two men as “inexperienced” boaters, and it appears the inexperience led to the drownings.  The Sheriff’s department estimated winds on Lake Eloise at 20 mph with a 2 foot wind chop and “white caps”, a reference to the white water created when the crest of a wave breaks.  The two deceased men were identified as Orlando Ortiz and Jeffrey Marrero.

The name of the company that rented the boat to the two men has not been published yet, but this tragic accident highlights the need for better training and education for potential boat drivers when renting a boat.  Boaters in Florida are not required to have a boating drivers license unless they were born after January 1, 1988.  You can also rent a boat in Florida without a boating driver’s license as long as there is another person on board who has a Boating Safety Education Identification Card, or have attended a boating safety course.

However, even with a boating safety identification card, things can go wrong quickly on a boat.  In the Lake Eloise accident, there are several initial reports that multiple factors contributed to the accident:

  1. Inexperienced boaters driving the boat
  2. The boat rental company renting a boat without proper training on a very rough day
  3. Inexperienced crew – it is reported the deaths occurred while the two men were trying to help a woman who had jumped off the boat while trying to set an anchor
  4. Not using appropriate flotation devices

A thorough assessment of the boaters’ capabilities should have been done by the boat rental company to ensure the men were properly trained to operate the boat in the rough conditions.  The boat rental company should also have assessed the other persons on the boat and whether personal flotation devices should have been required to be worn.  A short course on the operation of the boat is simply not adequate to send a boat out into rough conditions like on Lake Eloise. Had a proper assessment been done and safety measures been required, this accident most likely would not have occurred.

The U.S. Coast Guard has listed user error and persons overboard as two of the most common causes of boating accidents.  Failure to wear personal flotation devices is also one of the highest causes of boating deaths in Florida.  Both of these causes should have been addressed by the boat rental company before the boat left the dock.

For more information on Florida boating accidents, or information on the Lake Eloise boat accident, contact the Maus Law Firm for a complimentary consultation and analysis.


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