Following the death of a female passenger on a small boat he was driving down the Ogeechee River near Savannah, Georgia (GA), in August 2013, a grand jury on April 18, 2014, indicted the man on multiple felony charges.
The Savannah Morning News reported that woman suffered fatal head injuries when the man sped under a low railroad bridge. Blood tests and police investigations revealed that the man had consumed alcohol, used methamphetamine and taken several mood-altering prescription medications like alprazolam (e.g., Xanax) before taking to the water.
Criminal charges include boating while intoxicated, reckless operation and homicide by vessel. Had the man allegedly caused a fatal car accident, he would be facing equivalent charges of DUI/DWI, reckless driving and vehicular homicide.
Regardless of the outcome in criminal court, this deadly boat accident illustrates how much danger intoxicated boaters pose. Safely steering a watercraft requires as much mental focus and physical coordination as safely operating a car or truck. Every state and the federal government enforce BWI laws, as well as speed limits in specified areas of rivers, lakes and harbors. Violating those regulations can bring harsh penalties.
Even more to the point, though, deaths and injuries are close to certainties when boat operators drink heavily or abuse drugs. No matter how wide open a waterway appears, sandbars, approaching vessels and difficult-to-negotiate obstacles can appear suddenly and require quick, expert action.
Early spring is the time to take to heart the message that drinking and boating never mix. Hitting the water after hitting the bottle or doing drugs can have fatal consequences and lead to criminal charges and civil liabilities for causing harm to other people.