After a boat hit a wave at a bad angle and capsized on Lake Moultrie near Charleston, South Carolina (SC), on the night of July 23, 2016, seven people went into the water. Only five were rescued, at least one of whom required hospital treatment for injuries. Two other men who were aboard the 32-foot craft when it flipped remained missing through the following day and are presumed drowned.
State law enforcement officials have charged the man operating the boat with felony boating under the influence and causing an injury. The rules for BUI mirror those for driving under the influence, meaning no one with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher can legally steer a boat or personal watercraft. Any impairment or intoxication by drugs also makes it illegal to take the wheel of a boat or to operate a PWC.
When the deaths of the missing Lake Moultrie boat passengers are confirmed, the operator could face additional charges for acting recklessly and inflicting fatal injuries. He may also be liable for settling wrongful death claims. Just as the standards for BUI -- which many other states call boating while intoxicated, or BWI -- match those for DUI, so do the risks. Impaired judgment, slowed reflexes and inability to recognize and respond to dangerous situations threaten lives on the water just as they do on the roads.
My Carolina wrongful death law firm colleagues and I hope that tragedies like this one in South Carolina convince more people to boat sober.