Skip to main content

Harrowing Case of Tragic BUI Accident Prompts Important PSA

Remember "Don't Drink & Drive" applies to boaters too. Take the Sober Skipper Pledge!

Harrowing Case of Tragic BUI Accident Prompts Important PSA

The 238-channel marker scarred with gouges from a fatal boat impact serves as a haunting reminder to not drink before operating any vessel.

Watching the Sea Tow Foundation’s Sober Skipper PSA featuring young friends partying and having a good time and then driving their boat straight into another boat made me stop and think for a moment.

A moment, like when I was in high school, leaving my driver’s education class having just watched an hour of mangled vehicles and bodies only to race out of the school parking lot in a car crammed full of classmates.

It’s possible that all it takes is a moment to scare people with actors and gruesome stock videos to get them to take the message to heart. To change behavior. But, in the age of scroll, I’m not sure.

boat path presented by FWC in prosecution case against Kyle Barrett
Inebriation, low light, navigating dangerous waters at a high rate of speed, and false confidence behind the wheel all culminated in a tragic accident that claimed the lives of 28-year-old Paige Barrett and 1-year-old Hudson Matakaetis in 2019.

What got me to stop for more than a moment wasn’t a video but a newspaper article about a boating accident in my home waters. It involved a family I knew of and a shortcut I take regularly in my own boat.

A Palm City man, the age of my oldest daughter, was driving a 26-foot center console when he ran into an unlit channel marker, tossing five people overboard, killing his wife and their friends' 20-month-old daughter.

Evidence presented by FWC of hull damage from the fatal 2019 BUI accident
Evidence presented by FWC of hull damage from the 2019 accident.

“My lifelong boating experience failed me, and a tragic accident occurred,” the Stuart News reported Kyle Barrett, the driver of the boat, saying.

“Being such an experienced boater was probably part of the problem,” Barrett’s attorney Bob Watson told me. Implying that his familiarity with the waters most likely led to him taking over the helm that night with a false sense of self-assurance.

Two families will never be the same.

 

In November 2022, Kyle Barrett was sentenced to four years in prison, followed by six years of probation for vessel homicide.


“Boating under the influence (BUI) is something we put a lot of effort into,” said Brian Rehwinkel, FWC Division of Law Enforcement. Enforcement is an ongoing effort, Rehwinkel told me. Unfortunately, after looking at the last 10 years of boating fatalities in Florida, not much has changed.

boat crashing into trees on shoreline in Tampa
The driver of a 22-foot bay boat, while traveling at a high rate of speed in an idle-speed zone of the Hillsborough River in Tampa, was ejected from the vessel just prior to impact. The two individuals involved in the accident then fled the scene.

According to the data compiled within the FWC’s annual Boating Accident Statistical Reports, we can estimate that 70 people are going to die each year in a boating-related accident. Alcohol, in about 20% of the cases, is the number one contributing factor. And unlike the Sober Skipper PSA video showing 20-something-year-olds drinking alcohol and doing backflips off their boats, the person most likely to die in a Florida boating fatality is male (88%) and older than 36 (71%).

FWC boat accident statistics in Florida
A majority of boating accidents involve men from the ages of 36 and up with many hours of boat navigation hours under their belt.

The 70 people likely to die this year are people like you and me. Middle-aged males. The readers of this magazine.

Recommended


Gail Kulp, Executive Director of the Sea Tow Foundation, which launched the Sober Skipper campaign in 2015, expressed the same sentiments. “We’re targeting men the ages of 26 to 55 with our messaging.”

sea tow sober skipper pledge QR code
Screenshot or scan the QR code to pledge.

To date, over 130,000 people have taken the Sober Skipper Pledge, by which boaters agree to:

  1. Safely operate any boat, no matter the size, without consuming alcohol or drugs.
  2. Be responsible for your boat and all of your passengers.
  3. Designate a sober skipper for every boating trip.

Rehwinkel said the FWC supports the Sober Skipper campaign as well as Operation Dry Water, a year-round boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign.

hand turns key with sea tow sober skipper keychain in boat ignition
Free keychains, wristbands and other Sober Skipper accessories are available for free to individuals and event organizers looking to raise awareness. Consider making a donation with your purchase.

“We want folks to get out on the water and enjoy boating. However, operating a boat while impaired is dangerous and illegal. Our officers have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to impaired boat operators,” Rehwinkel said.

So, before you pop a beer and get behind the helm, think about those family members you love. Their lives, and yours, could change in an instant. FS


CALL TO ACTION

AGREE TO DESIGNATE A SOBER SKIPPER FOR EVERY BOATING TRIP.

GO TO THE SEA TOW FOUNDATION WEBPAGE

AND TAKE THE SOBER SKIPPER PLEDGE TODAY!


Published Florida Sportsman Magazine May 2023

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

How to Buy and Rig a River Fishing Kayak

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Power or Paddle? Bonafide PWR129

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

It's a Skiff, It's a Kayak: Bonafide SKF117

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Hobie Mirage Lynx to the Next Level

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Hobie Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight Packed with Features

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Extend Your Range in the Salt Marsh

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Florida's Capital Fishing

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot 120 FULLY RIGGED Fishing Machine

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Mounting Forward-Facing Sonar on A Kayak: Mounts, Scanning Applications and More!

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

On The Water with Old Town: Bass Fishing at PRIVATE GEORGIA LAKE

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

DECKED-OUT Old Town Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 Complete WALK-THROUGH

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Dreambuild: Old Town ePDL Gets Rigged to the Hilt

Florida Sportsman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now

Never Miss a Thing.

Get the Newsletter

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

By signing up, I acknowledge that my email address is valid, and have read and accept the Terms of Use