Earlier this month, three men and one woman died when a private fishing boat was capsized in the cold waters near Bodega Bay. The accident occurred on the opening day of crab season. The boat capsized after it was hit by a wave. One man onboard the boat survived by swimming to the rocky shoreline near the entrance to the harbor. He was rescued by a helicopter crew. None of the five people aboard the boat were wearing life vests.

The people onboard the boat were recreational crabbers. They were part of a flotilla that was celebrating the start of the commercial and recreational crabbing season. They left the harbor around 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, but decided to head back around 10 a.m. They were traveling at about 10 miles per hour when a rogue wave hit the boat. The boat flipped and threw the five passengers into the 58 degree water. The Coast Guard sent a crew after another boater reported the accident. The Coast Guard pulled four people from the water, but they were not responsive. The four people who died ranged in age from 56 to 86.

Fortunately, the crew of a sheriff’s department helicopter saw the lone survivor clinging to sharp rocks and they lowered a deputy on a 100 foot line who hoisted him up. The man was wearing only a t-shirt and jeans and was very cold, but his injuries were not considered life threatening. He was forced to swim 25 minutes in cold water to the shore. He reports that he is happy to be alive, but is feeling survivor’s guilt. One of the victims was a friend of his for 40 years.

It’s so tragic that this recreational crabbing trip turned deadly for four of the five passengers on the boat. Boating can be a wonderful hobby and a way to relieve stress, but if boat owners and passengers don’t take proper precautions the trip can quickly turn into a nightmare, as occurred in this case.

Boat owners have a duty to properly maintain their boats, as well as to provide life jackets to the passengers. It’s unclear whether or not there were life jackets onboard this boat and the passengers simply chose not to wear them, or if there were no life jackets available. If the passengers on this boat had been wearing life jackets, it’s highly likely that most or all of them would have survived.

It’s also important for boat drivers to operate their boats in a safe manner. This accident appears to have been caused by a rogue wave, not driver recklessness. However, many boating accidents are caused by driver inattention, inappropriate behavior by the driver, the use of alcohol, speeding, or other negligent actions.

Many boaters are tempted to drink while on the boat, but resist the urge. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, boat operators with a blood alcohol concentration of over 0.10 are 10 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident as those who have not been drinking. Drinking also greatly increases the risk of drowning.

If you have been injured in a boating accident in the San Francisco Bay area, you may have a legal right to compensation if the accident was caused by the negligence of another party. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that anyone who has been injured in a boat accident because of the negligence of another party should pursue compensation for his or her injuries. Call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco personal injury attorney, at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000 to learn more. She will speak with you about your case for free, and you will not pay any legal fees unless she obtains a recovery for you.

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