Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Investigation Underway in Fatal Boating Accident
Investigation underway in fatal boating accident By DAVE SHELTON JOHNS PASS – A Wesley Chapel man could face homicide charges in the deaths of two personal watercraft riders after his powerboat collided with their vessel Saturday night. One witness said a 29-foot twin-hulled powerboat was going fast when it approached a circling Ski-Doo in Boca Ciega Bay at about 6 p.m. May 22. The boat and ski-Doo collided about a quarter-mile east of John’s Pass. “When I saw this boy, well, young man, flying through the air I first thought he’d jumped,” said a woman who witnessed the crash from the boardwalk at St. John’s Pass. “Then, I saw the seat flying and I knew it was bad.” Killed in the crash were Corey Vincent, 19, of Madeira Beach, and a close friend whom she had grown up with in Connecticut, Joseph Battista, 23, of Clinton, Conn. Both appeared to have died from injuries sustained in the impact with the larger vessel, according to Bill Pellan, director of investigations for the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s office. Miguel A. Alvarado, 38, of Wesley Chapel drove the powerboat, according to Lt. Gary Morse, state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Morse said Alvarado and several passengers in his boat weren’t injured in the crash. Fish and Wildlife investigators are interviewing nearly two dozen witnesses and are awaiting the outcome of a blood alcohol level test on Alvarado before determining how the crash happened, according to Morse. He said the investigation could take three to six weeks. Morse said that boat operators face the same kinds of charges that motor vehicle operators could face in a fatal crash. He said reckless or drunken operation of a boat could lead to felony charges. Vincent is the daughter of James and Judith Dowd. The practically new Sea-Doo was registered to Judith Dowd, according to Morse. This is the second fatal crash this year in the Tampa Bay area involving personal watercraft. Pinellas County leads the state in the number of fatal boating accidents. According to state records, there have already been 45 boating fatalities in Florida this year compared to 68 in 12 months last year. A Michigan man joined those statistics April 1 when he was killed on a rented personal watercraft that was slammed into by one being driven by his teenage son. According to the state Wildlife Conservation Commission, there were seven boating fatalities in Pinellas County last year. Statistics show that personal watercraft account for more boating accidents than their share of boat types. The state data show that while personal watercraft represent just 2.1 percent of all registered boats in Florida, they recorded 43 percent of all accidents last year. The most recent boating fatality happened April 1 in the middle of Clearwater Harbor near the Sand Key U.S. Coast Guard station. Of more than 1,000 accidents reported last year involving personal watercraft, 104 involved rented boats, according to the Wildlife Commission report. Across the state, 12 percent of all boating fatalities involved personal watercraft and they accounted for 31 percent of all boating injuries. And, the commission reported, of nearly 24,000 citations issued last year for violation of state boating regulations, 930 were issued to personal watercraft operators.