Investigation Shows Former Professional Hockey Player At Fault in Fatal September 2017 Florida Boating Accident

A former professional hockey player and educator who was killed and his young daughter injured in a Florida boating accident in September 2017 was determined to be at fault in the accident after an extensive investigation whose findings were recently released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FFWC). According to a Tampa Bay Times report, FFWC investigators concluded the crash was caused by former Canadian professional hockey player turned local Tampa educator Craig Butz through “operator inexperience and inattention.” Alcohol was also a contributing factor as Butz’s blood-alcohol content level at the time of the accident was 0.156. (By way of reference, this is almost twice the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle in Florida and would have earned him a DUI had Butz been driving a car.) As reflected in this tragedy, boating can be very fun, but can also carry with it significant risks due to high speeds, crowded waters and the prevalence of boating operators who have been drinking. This is particularly true in the Sunshine State, which consistently has either the highest or one of the highest rates of boating fatalities and injuries of all 50 states year in and year out.

The Boating Accident in Question

The accident in which Butz was killed and his four-year-old daughter injured took place off Clearwater Beach on Florida’s West Coast. Butz was piloting a Sea-Doo jet ski out into the ocean at a high rate of speed when he drove straight into the left side of a larger boat with four people onboard that was headed back inland. The larger boat turned sharply at the last minute to avoid impact with Butz’s Sea-Doo, causing the jet ski to go underneath the nose of the larger boat. Both Butz and his daughter were thrown from the Sea-Doo and suffered serious injuries. Butz was later pronounced dead at a local hospital and his daughter suffered a head injury and broken bones in her arms and legs because of the collision. Neither the captain nor the three passengers aboard the larger vessel were injured in the collision.

Florida Law Regarding Boating Accidents

As in most states, Florida law concerning the operation of boats is similar to the state’s laws regarding the operation of motor vehicles. For example, a boat operator must use appropriate measures to keep his or her passengers as well as nearby boaters safe. If a boat’s operator is negligent in operating his vessel, such as piloting it at excessive speeds or drinking and then operating a boat, the boat operator can be sued by either his own passengers or other boaters if the negligence results in an accident that injures or kills someone.

If a boat’s operator is negligent in causing an accident and this negligence results in injuries to a third party, the boating accident victim is entitled to recover any bills and expenses for medical treatment necessitated by his or her injuries, any lost past or future wages caused by those injuries, as well as past and future pain and suffering caused by the injuries. If a passenger or another boater is killed by a Florida boater, then the victim’s estate as well as surviving spouse and children can seek damages from the boater that caused the accident.

Therefore, in this scenario, if any of the individuals in the larger boat that collided with the jet ski on which Butz and his daughter were traveling had been injured or killed, then those individuals would have a claim against Butz’s estate (rather than Butz himself because he was killed in the collision) for any injuries they suffered, subsequent medical treatment they required, damage to the larger boat caused by Butz’s actions as well as other damages allowed under Florida law.

Contact The Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys
at Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A. 

As the September 2017 boating accident tragedy involving former professional hockey player Craig Butz and his daughter demonstrates, boating accidents can have devastating consequences for those involved. Boating accidents typically mix high speeds, alcohol and sometimes even drugs in a combination that can be deadly.  Due to the fact that our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 150 years of combined practice, the lawyers of Schwed, Adams & McGinley have represented numerous victims of Florida boating accidents and well understand the devastating impact these tragedies can have on a family. If you, a family member or a loved one has been injured or killed in a boating accident, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A today at 877-694-6079 or contact@schwedlawfirm.com for a free consultation today.

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