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'Ethan's Law': Prompted by a boy's boating accident, new safety law goes into effect July 1

A 10-year-old Sarasota boy, Ethan Isaacs, was killed in a sailing accident after his instructor fell off and the boat he was driving went rogue.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Among the new Florida laws that go into effect on July 1 is "Ethan's Law," a law that would help improve boating safety during instruction.

The bill, HB 701, is named after a 10-year-old Sarasota boy, Ethan Isaacs. He was killed in a sailing accident on Nov. 21, 2020. 

"Ethan was sailing and the instructor fell overboard and it took off in an uncontrolled spin and struck Ethan, and he was killed," Ethan's dad, Greg Isaacs, said.

The 6th grader had just started learning how to sail with his now-16-year-old brother, Tanner.

"He really enjoyed the challenge of learning how to control the boat and being independent," Ethan's mom, Mindy Isaacs, said.

Greg and Mindy Isaacs said since the accident, they've had to learn how to be a family of three and have turned their loss into a benefit for society at large through meaningful action.

"We've tried to become engaged in the effort with boating safety that we have been working on," she said.

Once in effect on July 1, the new Florida law would require boating instructors and coaches to wear an emergency kill switch while they are operating any motorized water vessel 26 feet and smaller. This can either be connected with a lanyard, by a harness or through a wireless device. 

Local law enforcement officials are spreading the message and boating dealerships are installing them on boats. They're encouraging everyone, not just boating teachers, to use them. 

"You should be wearing the kill switch to a safety jacket or to a belt loop, that way if you were to get thrown out of the boat it would pull it out and it would kill the engine," Matt Davis of Marine Outlet Center in Osprey said.

Davis and his team say they have been upgrading some older boats to have the kill switch function and setting up the wireless technology for boat owners who don't want the inconvenience of a lanyard or harness.

"Anybody can fall out of the boat," Davis said. "A lot of stuff can happen out there between waves and other traffic. Then you throw in bad weather and, unfortunately in boating, if you throw in alcohol and stuff like that. There's a lot of variables out there and you want to make sure you're safe."

RELATED: List: These Florida laws take effect Friday

"Safety in the water is priority in any event and setting the example for whoever you're coaching is very important," Michael Skinner of the Sarasota Police Marine Unit said.

"It's important because not only as a coach, the younger ones look up to you for teaching them the correct way to do things," Skinner added.

The U.S. Coast Guard already has – for many years – required a kill switch on most boats and water vessels, but under the law using it is optional for recreational boaters.

The Isaacs family hopes as awareness about "Ethan's Law" spreads, it will become common among boaters.

"We just didn't want this to happen to anybody else and we know that we're doing our part to make sure that it won't," Greg Isaacs said.

RELATED: Sarasota school remembers 6th grader killed in sailing accident

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