A Greenwich, Connecticut man recently received a sentence of probation over a 2010 boating accident off the coast near Madaket in Nantucket. The August 2010 accident, described as a “hit-and-run boating collision,” injured two people, sending both to the hospital.
Nearly a year later, in July 2011, prosecutors in Nantucket County charged the operator of one of the boats, 21 year-old James Sternlicht, with multiple offenses. These included unsafe operation of a motorboat and failure to report a motorboat accident. Because Sternlicht was under the age of 21 at the time of the accident, prosecutors added a charge for alcohol possession. They also charged him with operating a motorboat without a proper identification number. Massachusetts law, like the laws of Connecticut and other states, requires registration of boats, and requires that boats to have proper documentation.
In March 2012, a Nantucket District Court judge sentenced Sternlicht to one year of pretrial probation for the unsafe operation of a motorboat charge. The court fined Sternlicht $500 for failing to report the accident, and $50 for operating the boat without identification. Prosecutors dismissed the charge of alcohol possession. Sternlicht must also complete a boating safety class through the United States Coast Guard before he may operate a boat or any other water vessel again.
Boating accidents are a serious problem throughout the country. The U.S. Coast Guard identified 4,789 boating accidents in 2008. These accidents caused 709 deaths and 3,331 injuries, and caused about $54 million in property damage. Ninety percent of the fatalities did not have a life jacket on, and ninety percent occurred with boat operators who had not received safety training. The Coast Guard found that alcohol was the main factor in seventeen percent of boating accident deaths that year.
Connecticut requires a Safe Boating Certificate (SBC) in order to operate a recreational vessel such as a boat. For jet skis, described by state law as “personal watercraft,” the state requires a Certificate of Personal Watercraft Operation (CPWO). To obtain either certificate, an applicant must complete a basic boating course and an examination. Children under the age of 16 may operate a boat, but not a personal watercraft, if an adult age 18 or older with a SBC supervises them. Children under the age of 16 may operate a personal watercraft if an adult with a CWPO accompanies them.