Ethan’s Law: Boating accident prompts new safety law in Florida

Ethan Isaacs, a 10-year-old Sarasota child, was killed in a boating accident when his instructor fell and the boat he was driving went out of control.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Among the new Florida laws that go into effect on July 1 is “Ethan’s Law,”A law that would improve boating safety during instruction.

The bill HB 701Ethan Isaacs, a Sarasota boy aged 10, was the inspiration for the name ‘Ethan Isaacs’. He was killed in a boating accident on November 21, 2020. 

“Ethan was sailing and the instructor fell overboard and it took off in an uncontrolled spin and struck Ethan, and he was killed,”Greg Isaacs was Ethan’s dad.

The 6th grader was just learning to sail with Tanner, his 16-year-old brother. 

“He really enjoyed the challenge of learning how to control the boat and being independent,”Mindy Isaacs, Ethan’s mother, said.

Mindy and Greg Isaacs shared that their experience with the accident has forced them to become a family of three. They have also learned how to make meaningful actions to turn their loss into a benefit to society.

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“We’ve tried to become engaged in the effort with boating safety that we have been working on,”She said.

The new Florida law, which took effect July 1, requires boating coaches and instructors to wear an emergency kill button while operating any motorized watercraft 26 feet or smaller. This can be connected by a lanyard, a harness, or a wireless device. 

Local law enforcement officials are spreading this message, and boating dealers are installing them on their boats. They encourage everyone to use them, not just boating instructors. 

“You should be wearing the kill switch to a safety jacket or to a belt loop, that way if you were to get thrown out of the boat it would pull it out and it would kill the engine,”Matt Davis, Marine Outlet Center in Osprey, said.

Davis and his team claim that they have been upgrading older boats to have the kill button function, and setting up wireless technology for boat owners who don’t want the hassle of a harness or lanyard.

“Anybody can fall out of the boat,” Davis said. “A lot of stuff can happen out there between waves and other traffic. Then you throw in bad weather and, unfortunately in boating, if you throw in alcohol and stuff like that. There’s a lot of variables out there and you want to make sure you’re safe.”

RELATED: List of Florida laws that take effect Friday

“Safety in the water is priority in any event and setting the example for whoever you’re coaching is very important,”Michael Skinner, Sarasota Police Marine Unit, said.

“It’s important because not only as a coach, the younger ones look up to you for teaching them the correct way to do things,”Skinner added.

The U.S. Coast Guard already has – for many years – required a kill switch on most boats and water vessels, but under the law using it is optional for recreational boaters.

The Isaacs family hopes to raise awareness about “Ethan’s Law”Spreads, it will become more common among boaters.

“We just didn’t want this to happen to anybody else and we know that we’re doing our part to make sure that it won’t,” Greg Isaacs said.

RELATED : Sarasota school remembers 6th-grader who was killed in a sailing accident

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