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.