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On Friday, July 24, 2015, Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, both 14, bought fuel and then climbed aboard their 19-foot boat in Jupiter, Florida, to go fishing. That was the last time that the boys have been seen. They were reported missing later that day, and the Coast Guard began a massive search that has encompassed an area the size of the state of West Virginia--stretching south to Cape Canaveral, Florida, and north to Savannah, Georgia. On Sunday, the boys' capsized boat was spotted and recovered near Ponce Inlet, nearly 70 nautical miles (180 miles) away from where they had started out. With the search in its sixth day, the Coast Guard is not ready to diminish the scope or intensity of its efforts yet because with water temperatures being so warm this time of year, it is possible for people to survive in water for several days, perhaps longer.

Inevitably, questions have surfaced about why two fourteen-year-olds were on a boat unsupervised on the open sea. Perhaps the best answer is from the stepfather of Perry Cohen, Nick Korniloff, who stated that the boys were not supposed to be on the ocean at all. They were told to boat in the Intracoastal Waterway and inlets, where shore can be seen on both sides, boating traffic is constant and nearby in case of emergency, and there is no gulf stream current or strong tides to carry a boat far off course. Offshore boating, as boating in the open ocean is referred to, carries risks and can lead to crises that require experience and problem-solving skills that young teens just do not have.


Although boating will always include an element of risk, the Coast Guard has specific recommendations to lessen the dangers associated with maritime fun and transport. The first recommendation is to always wear a life jacket when boating; this is in fact a requirement for all children under 13 years of age according to Georgia law. Most boating accident fatalities are drownings, and most of those occur because boaters were not wearing life jackets. A second safety recommendation is to avoid alcohol while boating, or to at least be sure a designated captain is chosen. While the stigma of drinking and driving has appropriately resonated with the public, drinking while boating is still largely tolerated. Yet driving a boat while drinking is no less dangerous than driving a car while intoxicated.

Another key safety consideration is checking the local weather conditions before departure. Darkening clouds, volatile and rough changing winds or sudden drops in temperature may indicate a storm is on its way, and it is better to stay on shore. Always have a pre-departure checklist and follow it. Included on the list should be informing someone of your float plan, with all relevant data on your boat, your itinerary, and any radio contact information. Radios and emergency contact gear should always be aboard a boat; never go out on the water without a way to call for help during an emergency.

It is a good idea to take a safe boating course. It is also a good idea to learn how to swim before going out on the water. Finally, the Coast Guard offers free vessel safety checks to ensure your boat is fit for the water.


Following the above precautions when boating will hopefully result in a pleasant time spent on the water. If, however, you are involved in a boating accident, call Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation today.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

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