News Stories

Senate Bill 1612 'Ellie's Law'

Picture this. You’re taking a tour of the Everglades. Speeding in an airboat. Life’s good. Well regulations concerning airboat tours may change near the end of this year.

When Ellie Goldenberg took an airboat tour last year, she didn’t know it would be the last day of her life. The boat she was on came to a sudden halt to avoid hitting another boat and she was thrown out of the airboat and died.  She was only 22 years old. A day after her graduation at the University of Miami.

This caused lawmakers to think. How regulated are airboats in Florida?

From what I can find, the airboat industry isn’t heavily regulated. In fact, I’ve only seen two regulations put in place by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. One: Airboats must use a specific muffler.  Two: each boat must have a mast or flagpole displaying a flag at least 10 feet above the lowest part of the boat.

There’s no minimum age to operate a boat. Just that people born after January 1, 1988 must pass an approved boater safety course and carry the ID.

That makes you stop and think right?

To help solve the problem a senator sponsored Senate Bill 1612, also known as ‘Ellie’s Law’.

If it passes it will tighten rules for airboat operators.

Here’s what the law would do : Operators will have to have a photo ID card.  They’ll need to complete an approved airboat operator course. They’ll also need a certificate showing the can give CPR.

And the penalties for not doing this? Fines up to $500. If passed, these changes will take place beginning December 31 st .

If you’re an airboat company I’d love to hear from you and take a tour.   Also, if you’re a tourist, let me know how you feel about this bill. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.