A family and some friends were out on a 20-foot Bayliner boat in Hampton, Virginia (VA) on July Fourth enjoying the beautiful summer weather when a horrific accident occurred. The individual operating the boat let a 7-year-old boy take control of the helm. The boy abruptly turned the boat into a narrow pier on the Hampton River. This caused the boy’s mother, who was sitting on the bow, to be struck by the pier and then thrown face-first through the boat’s windshield. She died due to the severity of the injuries, according to the Daily Press.
This boat accident is heartbreaking because it appears as though it was caused by the best of intentions. The person operating the boat was probably trying to give the young boy an experience he’d always remember on the Fourth of July. There doesn’t appear to be any malice behind the action, just an attempt to make a family outing more memorable. Unfortunately, the boy will certainly remember this day for the rest of his life, but for all the wrong reasons.
I’m not trying to give the individual who operated the boat a free pass for allowing the boy to control the helm. This decision was irresponsible, but I do understand the likely motivation behind it.
State authorities are trying to figure out if reckless boating charges should be brought against the adult who was operating the boat. VA law does not allow individuals under the age of 16 to operate a personal watercraft without having taken a boating safety course, but there may be no criminal law on the books for this exact situation. However, the civil law system will probably make the insurance company pay for the wrongful death damages for this preventable loss of life.
Let this terrible boat accident be a reminder to all of us that the operation of a boat is a serious task and it should be left to adults who have some type of training and/or experience. You may be tempted to give your child or novice boater the thrill of controlling the helm of a boat, but this decision could lead to tragedy.