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October 25, 2017

A malfunction with a popular tourist attraction in Sumter County’s Lake Panasoffkee on Tuesday resulted in numerous injuries, some of them critical, to 15 people.  The incident involved an airboat from Tom and Jerry’s Airboat Rides, a company which operates along Lake Panasoffkee.  According to the initial report, Firefighters throughout Sumter County were called to Lake Panasoffkee around 10:40 in the morning after an emergency call was placed.  Chief Leland Greek, a member of Sumter County Fire Rescue, indicated that the call was placed after an airboat with 14 passengers and one driver suffered a malfunction with the steering mechanism which resulted in the vessel colliding with a cypress tree.

Chief Greek stated that a second boat was commandeered by the rescue team to reach the first boat and that all 15 individuals aboard the first boat were pulled from the water and brought to safety.  A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Chad Weber, was also at the scene after his agency was called in after the accident.  In his statement, Weber told reporters that personnel with EMS were on the scene to attend to those injured in the accident.  Weber also indicated that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was gathering statements from all those aboard the boat regarding what happened.

So far, the facts indicate that on Tuesday morning 15 people, including children, boarded the airboat to begin a tour of Lake Panasoffkee.  The airboats used by Tom and Jerry’s Airboat Rides feature stadium style seating with a small helm at the back of the vessel for the pilot.  The problems on Tuesday began when the steering cable on the airboat snapped, leaving the pilot unable to control the speeding machine.

The boat’s rush across the water was halted when it struck a large cypress root sticking up from the small waves.  The impact caused the boat to immediately halt and caused the passengers, who were all buckled in, to lurch violently forward.  This impact is what caused the majority of the injuries.

All told, every passenger was retrieved by the emergency response crews.  Nine of them were transported to the hospital.  Two of these nine were diagnosed as having critical injuries and three were reported as being in serious condition.

James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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