Two weeks ago, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission spokesperson Baryl Martin, confirmed two people are dead after a personal watercraft and tour boat collided in the Intracoastal Waterway off Clearwater on Saturday personal watercraft were killed in the collision in the area of Mile Marker 7, near the Memorial Causeway.
Officials and witnesses at the scene said two personal watercrafts were riding together when they decided to try to cut in front of the tour boat operated by The Tropics Boat Tours of Clearwater.
One personal watercraft made it safely past the boat, but the second, with Ramana Godabiraju, 50, and Shubhada Kulkami, 49, both of Lower Gwnyedd, Pa., on board, collided with the boat around 6:10 p.m.
Some suggested the two Jet Skis were involved in a game of ‘chicken’ though authorities have not confirmed this. The captain of the boat said he cut his engine after spotting the Jet Skis, but could not avoid a collision. The 10-foot water scooter was traveling south in the Clearwaterchannel while the 59-foot tour boat was traveling north, authorities said, and the Jet Ski struck the ‘dead center front’ of the boat. The captain retrieved the victims from the water and attempted CPR, but they were later pronounced dead by paramedics. None of the 70 to 80 passengers aboard the tour boat were injured.
The personal watercraft had been rented, Martin said. The tour boat was held in FWC custody overnight in order for investigators to photograph the boat in better light Sunday. Martin said an official cause of the crash has not been determined until the investigation has concluded. The cause of the crash is under investigation by FWC, in conjunction with the US Coast Guard. Clearwater Police and Fire assisted with the incident.
“Our thoughts and our prayers are with the family affected by this tragic accident,” said Trisha Rodriguez, owner of the Tropics Boat Tours boat. “This has never happened to us before. It’s a tragedy.” All cruises were canceled the following day out of respect for the dead, Rodriguez said in the report.
Slow down. It increases your reaction time and gives you space that could save your life,” said Baryl Martin. “People think these things are toys, but they’re not.”
The incident is the second fatal accident this month involving a water scooter in the area. Fifteen-year-old Katie Yale of Seminole died after a Labor Day collision between her inner tube and a personal watercraft.
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Gadiraju and Kulkarni lived along the 100 block of Cyprus Drive in the Ambler section of Lower Gwynedd, according to the Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds website. A 1981 graduate of Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Gadiraju worked as a principal consultant at CT-ONICS, a private life science and health care consulting practice, according to Gadiraju’s LinkedIn profile page. According to her LinkedIn profile page, Kulkarni worked as a manager with the global managing services company Accenture.
Dolman law Group wants to remind everyone, in light of this tragedy, of the dangers of riding personal watercrafts. When collisions occur, debilitating injuries can prevent injured parties from staying afloat. Life jackets are the only protection victims have to emergency personnel arrives.
Florida requires everyone operating a PWC to wear a life jacket, no matter what their age. Florida requires anyone under 22 years of age to carry a boating safety education card and photo ID while operating any water craft with 10 horsepower or greater.