SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Sarasota lawmaker is set to introduce a bill that would honor the life of a young boy tragically killed in a boating accident last November. ‘Ethan’s Law’ aims to make Florida’s waterways safer for everyone.
The 10-year-old was hit and killed by his instructor’s unmanned motorboat during sailing practice on Sarasota Bay. Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the instructor lost his footing and fell overboard.
“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,” said Greg and Mindy Isaacs.
State Representative Fiona McFarland has been working with the boy’s parents to craft the bill.
“I still remember the day that she returned my phone call and we felt uplifted that day during a very painful time,” said Ethan’s mother.
“Every bill that we pass, every piece of law that comes into being, you hope that it is done proactively to prevent problems like this, but in this case, the parents came to me with a cause for action,” said Rep McFarland. “I am just proud as their state representative to be able to introduce this bill into the Florida House and hopefully honor the memory of Ethan and keep all of our waterways safer for Floridians,” she continued.
If passed, ‘Ethan’s Law’ would require operators of motorboats under 26 feet to wear an engine safety cutoff device, which automatically shuts off the engine if the operator is thrown overboard. Seven other states currently have similar laws in place, and the US Coast Guard will adopt the same rule in 2021.
“We reached out to all of the various stakeholders whether that is law-enforcement, FWC, our local sheriff’s office, city police department… We also got input from the boating manufacturers to mariners out there like the fisherman and boat owners association’s and really what we found was that each group we spoke to, they support this bill. It is something that makes sense if you spend a lot of time on the water,” said Rep. McFarland.
Sen. Joe Gruters will be introducing companion legislation in the Senate. If passed, ‘Ethan’s Law’ would go into effect this summer.
“It means a lot to us because we knew someway he would leave his mark on this world and through this law, he is,” said Greg Isaacs.
“We do believe that he wanted to make changes and make a difference in the world and we feel these efforts are going to do that,” said Mindy Isaacs.