Teen gets probation in boating crash that killed girl

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Posted at 12:59 PM, Jul 19, 2021

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) -- A 17-year-old Tampa-area boy received five years probation Monday after he pleaded guilty to causing the death of teenage girl in a November boating crash.

Gavin Johnston of Largo pleaded guilty to vessel homicide in adult court for the Nov. 1 crash that killed Rachel Herring, 16, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Johnston, Herring and other teens had been at a Halloween party when they left and took the boat out on the Intercoastal Waterway.

Johnston was speeding in a no-wake zone when he hit a channel marker and seven teens were thrown into the water. Herring drowned, but the others were rescued.

Johnston violated five U.S. Coast Guard safety rules, according to an arrest affidavit reviewed by the Times: responsibility, safe speed, risk of collision, operation in narrow channels and visibility of lights. He told investigators he had been traveling at about 30 mph.

Johnston must also perform 300 hours of community service, write a letter of apology to Herring's family and not drive a boat. He could have received 15 years.

"I agree with the sentencing," Steve Page, a spokesman for Herring's family, told the Times after the sentencing. "There's no sentence that fits. It's a very difficult situation."