Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Florida: Increasing Risk to Beachgoers from Emergency Vehicles

Recent news coverage by the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and other news outlets have highlighted the risk of beach enthusiasts being injured or killed by emergency vehicles on public beaches.

This risk has been particularly flagged as it relates to emergency vehicles that have been responsible for both injuries and death to beach enthusiasts, particularly in South Florida, but anyone who spends time on beaches should be observant 0f vehicles driving on sand and position themselves in such a way as to avoid areas where emergency vehicles may be operating.

COMMENT: Proponents of pickup trucks on beaches call them life-saving tools, largely because lifeguards rely on them for transportation in emergencies and to carry medical equipment, such as backboards, defibrillators and first-aid kits.

That being said, there have been at least a dozen incidents involving injuries to sunbathers just in the last ten years and one documented wrongful in which the City of Miami Beach was ordered to pay a US$1.5 million judgment to a French family whose daughter was killed in 2003.

North Carolinian Rinda Mizelle, 49, was sunbathing on a Fort Lauderdale beach just last week when she was run over by an Ocean Rescue vehicle. As a result, she sustained severe injuries and burns and was taken to Broward General Hospital with lacerations to her arms and legs.

John Philipps, Mizelle's attorney, alleges the city was negligent, and is urging Fort Lauderdale to prohibit large vehicles on the beach.

Last year [2011], two people were run over by a Miami Beach officer who was allegedly drunk while joyriding on a city-owned ATV. One of the victims suffered serious injuries. Lawsuits against the city are pending.

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