Investigation faults the skipper

Posted on 29 January 2011

Florida boating investigators have concluded that "careless" vessel operation was the main cause of a fatal accident last fall in Jupiter Inlet.

Thomas Henry, 59, suffered head and neck injuries that led to his drowning Sept. 3 when he fell from the flybridge of Waterdog, his 48-foot 1986 Garlington, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report. Henry and his first mate were returning from a morning fishing trip in the Atlantic with five clients when his boat broached in 6- to 8-foot breaking waves.

"Mr. Henry operated the vessel in a careless manner by attempting to drive over the backside of the wave as he approached the inlet," commission investigator Jon Garzaniti writes in the 73-page report. "This resulted in the vessel capsizing, ejecting him into the water." He was not wearing a life jacket.

Freelance photographer Stuart Browning captured the accident in a dramatic sequence of photos that are included in the report. The photos show the boat coming over a breaking wave and broaching as it descends into the trough. The bow plunged into the water and the cockpit flooded as it rolled on its port side. As the boat began to right to starboard, Henry was thrown from the flybridge. His head and upper body apparently struck the port gunwale before he fell into the water.

A number of other charter captains kept their boats at the docks that morning because of the weather. The commission's report makes no reference to Henry's decision to go out. "Obviously, the seas did play a factor in the accident," Garzaniti says. "But there's nothing to say he could not have gone out. That was a personal choice on his part."

Speed was not cited as a contributor, either. The report says the boat, powered by twin 540-hp diesels, was traveling at 10 to 20 mph.

Click here for tips on how to safely run an inlet.

A complete report on the broaching and investigation will be in the March issue of Soundings.

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Comments (2) Comments are closed
2 Saturday, 29 January 2011 15:11
I am positive this vessel never capsized.Matter of fact after Mr.Henry was thrown over the mate took command and took it to another inlet.Make sure ALL the facts are reported and true next time.
1 Saturday, 29 January 2011 13:15
Jim Clark
Took a course a few years ago in this inlet. We waited for the bad weather and then ran the gauntlet. It was fun but quite terrifying. Not for the uninitiated.