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16-year-old killed in boat crash on the Intracoastal Waterway; teen charged

Some of the teens had been drinking and were coming back from a house party in the Treasure Island area, the Pinellas County sheriff said.

INDIAN SHORES, Fla. — A teen was killed when the boat she was riding in crashed overnight on the Intracoastal Waterway.

The operator of the boat, a 16-year-old male, is charged with vessel homicide in the death of 16-year-old Rachel Herring, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

There were seven teens on board the 24-foot boat when it crashed around 12:30 a.m. Sunday in Indian Shores, the sheriff said. They were coming back from a house party in the Treasure Island area, traveling northward.

It's believed some of the teens, aged between 16-17 had been drinking, and there was drug use at the party, the sheriff said. There were some 30-40 juveniles said to be on the first floor at the house, with adults partying on the second floor.

The teenaged boat operator appeared not to be under the influence, the sheriff added.

"The boat was, the best we could tell, probably going too fast, and it hit the channel marker," Gualtieri said. "... The channel marker was moved from the impact of the crash."

All seven teens were thrown from the boat, and no one was wearing a life jacket, the sheriff continued.

Herring said to have been found floating in the Intracoastal Waterway after a search; the sheriff said a phone app was used to help find her. One other teen was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

The teen boat operator reportedly knew there were broken lights on the boat.

"This is very tragic," Gualtieri said. "You got a 16-year-old girl who is deceased, and it doesn't get much worse than that."

Grief counselors will be at the teen's school tomorrow for both in-person and online students "for as long as needed" a Pinellas County Schools spokesperson said. 

An investigation into the crash is ongoing.

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