Fiona McFarland files legislation to require motorboat kill switches
Ethan Isaacs.

The bill is named after a 10-year-old boy killed in a Sarasota boating accident.

Florida may soon require engine cutoff devices to be worn by motorboat operators after a Sarasota boy’s death.

Rep. Fiona McFarland intends to file legislation named for Ethan Isaacs, a 10-year-old killed in a boating accident last year. The bill would implement requirements for operators of motorboats under 26 feet to wear devices that will automatically cut off engines should operators fall overboard.

The Pine View School sixth-grader died at a Sarasota Youth Sailing Event after his boat operator fell into the water and the boat went on to crash into other vessels.

“Whenever there’s a tragedy, particularly when a young child dies, you always wonder what could have been done to prevent it from happening,” McFarland said. “I’m honored to be working with the Issacs family to make the Florida waterways safer.”

McFarland said she crafted the legislation in conjunction with Isaacs’ parents, who support the legislation.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to make a positive change to boating safety in the State of Florida in honor of our son Ethan Isaacs,” said Greg and Mindy Isaacs in a statement.

“Ethan was an extremely gifted and kind boy with a full life ahead of him. His tragic death, which has caused our entire family a great deal of suffering, could have been prevented. It is our hope that Ethan’s Law will prevent future tragedies, save lives and make the Florida waterways safer for everyone.”

The Sarasota Republican also worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local boat manufacturers to learn what measures could be taken to prevent future accidents.

The legislation ended up being modeled after similar bills in place in seven other states. The U.S. Coast Guard will also adopt similar rules later this year. If passed, McFarland’s bill will allow state and local agencies to enforce the rule.

Boat manufacturers have been required to equip vehicles with engine kill switches since 2018

Sen. Joe Gruters, also a Sarasota Republican, is expected to file companion legislation in the upper chamber.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • TylerWoodby

    February 5, 2021 at 8:24 am

    I am on the fence with this one, I am not too sure how it would work, would it be like the kill switches on treadmills? If so then that would be cumbersome and greatly restrict movement. Would it be digital? If so then it would be very expensive for the average boater to get equipped to their rigs.

  • Paul

    February 9, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    Every recreational powered boat already comes with a emergency engine cut-off lanyard. Very easy to use, just clip it on when driving. Like wearing your seatbelt in a car it’s a very smart thing to do.

    There are also have been wireless versions on the market for a number of years well within the average boaters budget. These can also monitor passengers.

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