Header Ads

Girl, 16, is killed in Florida boating accident when 16-year-old pilot crashes into wooden channel marker during boozy Halloween party - as he's arrested on homicide chatrges

 A boating accident in Florida on Sunday killed a 16-year-old girl and led to the arrest of a 16-year-old boy on homicide charges, after the vessel he was piloting crashed into a channel marker, sending everyone on board into the water.

The incident took place in the Intercostal Waterway in Indian Shores at around 12.30am as a group of teens were partying aboard the boat after attending a crowded Halloween celebration overnight. 

Rachel Herring, 16, was pronounced dead at the scene. The boat pilot, identified as 16-year-old Gavin Johnston, was arrested on a charge of vessel homicide. 

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press conference that the pilot did not exhibit any signs of alcohol or drug impairment.    

A mangled 2014 Yellow Fin boat is seen floating in the water off Indian Shores, Florida, on Sunday after a deadly crash involving a group of teenagers

A mangled 2014 Yellow Fin boat is seen floating in the water off Indian Shores, Florida, on Sunday after a deadly crash involving a group of teenagers 

The boat carrying seven juveniles smashed into this wooden channel marker at 12.30am on Sunday, causing them all to be ejected into the water and resulting in the death of 16-year-old Rachel Herring

The boat carrying seven juveniles smashed into this wooden channel marker at 12.30am on Sunday, causing them all to be ejected into the water and resulting in the death of 16-year-old Rachel Herring 

The boat belonged to the family of 16-year-old Gavin Johnston, the vessel's pilot that night

The boat belonged to the family of 16-year-old Gavin Johnston, the vessel's pilot that night 


The investigation has uncovered that Johnston and five other teens between ages 16 and 17 boarded the boat, a 22-foot-long 2014 Yellow Fin, at Johnston’s home in Largo at 7.30pm on Saturday. 

The vessel stopped at a boat ramp to pick up a friend who brought alcohol onto the boat and continued to a party in the Treasure Island area, where they arrived at 9pm.

'Investigators discovered there were approximately 25-40 juveniles at the location that were consuming alcohol or marijuana,' according to the sheriff's office. 'In the upstairs of that same residence was a party attended by adults.'

Detectives said the teen revelers left the party venue by boat at 12.15am, travelling northbound in the Intercontinental Waterway. 

Johnston was allegedly traveling at a high rate of speed when the boat slammed into channel marker 28, causing all seven passengers to be ejected from the boat into the water. 

Johnston and his friends had attended a Halloween party at Treasure Island where alcohol and marijuana were consumed, according to the sheriff's office

Johnston and his friends had attended a Halloween party at Treasure Island where alcohol and marijuana were consumed, according to the sheriff's office 

A diver is seen working in the water next to the damaged boat on Sunday

A diver is seen working in the water next to the damaged boat on Sunday 

The boat, which belonged to Johnston's parents, continued speeding and smashed into a seawall near Whitehurst Avenue and Gulf Boulevard in Indian Shores. 

Some of the teens who were thrown into the water realized that Rachel Herring was missing and called 911 for help. 

Deputies who responded to the scene used a phone app to locate Herring a half-mile south of the crash site floating in the water. She was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The medical examiner will determine Herring's exact cause of death. 

'This is very tragic,' Gualtieri said. 'You’ve got a 16-year-old girl that’s deceased, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.'

BayNews9 described Herring as a student at Osceolla Fundamental High School.  

Another teen was injured but the five others escaped the incident unharmed

Another teen was injured but the five others escaped the incident unharmed 

Another boat passenger was taken to Bayfront Medical Center to be treated for minor injuries. The other five youths escaped the accident unharmed.

The sheriff said no one on board the boat was wearing a life jacket at the time of the crash, and that both speed and poor lighting appeared to be factors in the collision.   

Investigators with the sheriff's Major Accident Investigation Team conducted field sobriety tests, which found that Johnston did not show signs of impairment. 

Johnston was arrested and taken to the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center.

No comments