Officials warn boaters about drinking out on the water - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Officials warn boaters about drinking out on the water

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COCONUT GROVE, Fla. (WSVN) -- Following a rash of recent deadly boating accidents on South Florida waters, officials plan to be out in force this weekend with a message that booze and boating do not mix.

The Bustamante family was caught prepping for a day on the water Friday. "As you can see, I'm a family man, so I always have the kids on boat," said J.C. Bustamante.

With 20 years of boating experience, Bustamante said safety is a top priority. "I think the boaters actually have to be educated," he said. "I feel that a lot of boaters now that are just buying boats and they're not being trained."

Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1988 is required to have a boater safety card, issued after a free boating safety course online. However, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Jorge Pino, warned, "If you're going to be careless, you're going to be careless whether you have a boater safety I.D. card or not."

According to Pino, education is not the biggest problem for the county with the deadliest boating record in the country. Since May, Miami-Dade has seen 14 boating fatalities. Pino said, "I can guarantee you that the majority of the incidents that we've seen on the waterways, if you eliminate alcohol, if you eliminate carelessness and or recklessness from the equation, we would have very few of the accidents that we have today."

In 2013, there were 53 fatal boating accidents in the state that killed a total of 62 people. This year, the region has seen its share of tragedy on the water, including one of the worst boating accidents in the history of South Florida. On the night of July 4, a three-boat crash on Biscayne Bay took four lives and left eight others injured. Though the accident is still under investigation, it has been confirmed that 15 percent of boating accidents are drug- or alcohol-related.

"We want people to know that we are out there," said Miami-Dade Marine Police Patrol Officer Lupo Jimenez. "We also want people to know that if you break the law, you're going to pay the price for it."

This weekend, Miami-Dade Police Marine Patrol will be conducting a boating-under-the-influence detail. "When we do come across somebody that's been drinking and operating a vessel, they will be arrested," noted Jimenez. "They will be processed the same way a DUI driver is processed."

From the roadways to the waterways, the same laws will apply. Police will be removing those boozing and cruising this weekend in the hopes of making boating safer for everyone.


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