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