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Boat damaged by wake of Boca Raton Fire Rescue vessel: Who pays? 

Rescue vessel sped past Lake Boca Raton to 911 call and wake chilled fiberglass from a recreational boat
Posted at 6:27 PM, Aug 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-22 18:27:42-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — A Boca Raton man said the wake from a speeding Boca Raton Fire Rescue boat led to more than $2,000 in damages to his brand new Boston Whaler. The city denied his claim.

One of Stuart Oliver’s 31-foot Boston Whaler is named “Special Activities, and one of his special activities is taking his wife out on for a spin on their home in Boca Raton.

But a four-year ordeal began in 2019, when the Olivers said they tied up their boat up at the Waterstone Marina restaurant on Lake Boca Raton, shortly before the Whaler had chunks of fiberglass gouged from its hull.

Stuart Oliver filed a police report claiming that it was caused by the wake of a speeding Boca Raton Fire Rescue boat in a minimum wake zone.

Stuart Oliver.png
Stuart Oliver said his 31-foot Boston Whaler was damaged by a wake from a speeding Boca Raton Fire Rescue boat.

“I saw that they kicked up a bit of a wake,” recounts Oliver. “So I went over to look at the boat and as I was on my way over there, I could see the boat really rocking.”

The boat was speeding because according to the police report, a woman on a boat of her own about a mile away, “called 911 stating she could not get to her husband who was swimming, because the current was too strong.”

“I understand that they had to run at a higher speed,” said Stuart Oliver of the rescue. “I don’t blame the boat operator.”

But he believed the city was responsible to pay for the damage.

Stuart Oliver Dave Bohman
Stuart Oliver shares his ordeal with Contact 5 Investigator Dave Bohman.

After Oliver submitted a claim, a city official wrote him that it had, “determined there is no liability against the city of Boca Raton.”

When he asked why, Boca Raton’s records manager said the city didn’t have to say, that the reason was “exempt from the public record.”

“I would like to get covered for my expenses,” Oliver said. “But I would at a minimum, like an explanation.”

Contact 5 went to city hall to try to get answers. Contact received this statement from the Boca Raton communications and marketing manager:

“According to Florida Statute 327.46 (Boating-restricted areas): ‘restrictions in a boating-restricted area established pursuant to this section shall not apply in the case of an emergency or to a law enforcement, firefighting, or rescue vessel owned or operated by a government entity.’

The city received an emergency call based on a female in distress, and a Boca Raton Fire Rescue vessel responded to the emergency call. Based on this and the above statutory provision, it was determined that the City was not negligent.”

Oliver, who was a volunteer firefighter before he retired, says municipalities would pay claims from a car owner if a fire truck dinged a car on its way to an emergency.

He doesn’t care for Boca Raton’s response to the damage to his boat.

“It’s frustrating to be told, ‘too bad. Not our fault. Go away,’” said Oliver.

He said his boat is insured, but did not file a claim, because his deductible was higher than the $2,500 in damages.

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