Okaloosa County is among the worst in Florida for water-related accidents

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Jim Thompson @Jimtnwfdn

FORT WALTON BEACH — Okaloosa County ranked seventh in the state for boating accidents last year, and fourth in the number of boating accidents involving personal watercraft, according to the latest Boating Accidents Statistical Report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The report covers accidents reported between March 27 of last year and March 13 of this year.

According to the FWC’s compilation, there were 34 “reportable accidents” in Okaloosa County for the 2017 reporting period. That total includes two fatal boating accidents, both of which occurred in Choctawhatchee Bay near Destin.

The first of last year’s fatal accidents occurred June 28. A 19-year-old Texas woman died when a 30-foot boat collided with the personal watercraft she was operating on the bay just north of the Destin Army Recreation Area.

The second fatal accident came three weeks later when a 22-foot fishing vessel crashed into a channel marker near Crab Island. A 34-year-old passenger on the boat lost part of his leg in the June 19 collision and died later.

There also were 21 reportable accidents involving injuries and 11 reportable accidents that did not involve injuries last year in Okaloosa County, according to the FWC. Twenty-seven people were injured in the 21 accidents involving injuries, the report said.

It notes that 16 of the reportable accidents in the county last year involved personal watercraft. In addition to the June death of the young Texas woman, those accidents resulted in 18 injuries, according to the FWC data.

For 2016, Okaloosa County ranked 15th in the state for boating accidents, although there were three fatalities reported that year, according to the FWC. Overall for 2016, there were 14 reportable accidents in the county, with 15 injuries.  

To be classified as “reportable,” a boating accident has to meet at least one of five criteria, according to the FWC report. The accident must have involved a death; a disappearance “under circumstances that indicate possible death or injury;” an injury requiring treatment beyond first aid; at least $2,000 in property damage to the vessel or vessels or other property; or the total loss of a vessel.

Santa Rosa County ranked 23rd in boating accidents last year, with nine reportable accidents involving five injuries and no fatalities. Walton County ranked 37th, with four reportable accidents resulting in three injuries and no deaths.

Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, led the state in boating accidents. Ninety-six reportable accidents occurred there last year, resulting in 58 injuries and six deaths.

Overall in Florida last year there were 766 reportable boating accidents, with 61 involving fatalities. Sixty-seven people died in boating accidents in Florida last year, according to the FWC.

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