Residents of Seattle and the greater King County area are exposed, daily, to news about dangerous accidents that cause injury or even death. Many of us instantly assume these accidents pertain to motor vehicles. The truth of the matter, however, is that we live in the Pacific Northwest where lakes, rivers, and waterways abound. For us, dangerous accidents are not limited to automobiles. Accidents involving boats frequently occur and they can also prove fatal.
One Killed, Two Injured in Lake Washington Boat Crash
On July 16, at approximately 10:30pm, two boats collided on Lake Washington. The collision occurred just off of Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood. The boats involved included a 21-foot sailboat and a 25-foot power boat.
The sailboat carried seven total passengers. After the collision took place, three of these passengers were thrown in the water. They included 33-year-old Melissa Protz, a 6th and 7th grade biology teacher, who died from the accident. They also included a man in his 40s and a woman in her 30s who were both injured and treated at Harborview Medical Center.
Four people were aboard the powerboat. None were thrown from the boat as a result of the collision. One woman, however, suffered minor injuries. The driver of the powerboat was eventually arrested and placed in jail on suspicion of homicide by motorcraft. Police say alcohol may have been a factor in the fatal accident.
The force of the collision was so powerful that it left a debris field about a half mile from shore. One woman, onshore and near the accident, provided a first hand account of the collision’s initial moments. According to Betsy Hale, “We were asleep on our roof and we heard a loud bang and we heard people crying for help, and then many, many sirens.”
Boating Accidents are not Uncommon
Unfortunately, accidents like the one described above are not uncommon. The U.S. Coast Guard reported in 2013 that there were 4,062 total recreational boating accidents in the U.S. This total involved 560 deaths, 2,600 injuries and approximately 39 million dollars of damage to property.
The statistics for Washington are just as grim. According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2013 Recreational Boating Report, Washington saw 94 total recreational boating accidents for the same year. This total involved 17 deaths, 51 injuries and over 980,000 dollars of damage to property.
Know the Law
Washington has established numerous laws to help ensure boater safety. Captains of vessels and boater enthusiasts (both active and passive) should be familiar with these laws before untying from the dock. Many of Washington’s laws place heightened responsibility upon owners of boats and seek to protect passenger safety. For example, boat owner’s must: generally maintain the safety of their boat, provide the requisite number of personal flotation devices, and maintain caution while cruising around bridges, docks and other boats and vessels.
We all know drinking and driving can injure and kill. This holds equally true for the drivers of cars and the drivers of boats. Please note that it’s a criminal offense in Washington to operate a boat while intoxicated. For boat operators, please note that if you operate your boat while intoxicated, and a passenger or someone else is injured, you can be liable for any damages incurred or sustained.
Know Your Rights
If you have been injured in a boating related accident, it’s essential that you know your rights. This is where the Phillips Law Firm comes into play. The attorneys at our firm have several years of collective experience in representing clients who have been injured as a result of a boating accident. Our attorneys are also highly educated and skilled as to Washington’s boating laws. These attorneys can help ensure you fully understand your rights and they can also assist in discussing your various options that may exist after an accident has occurred. Contact us today and simply let us begin helping.