How an Out-of-Control Jet Ski Can Become a 700-Pound Torpedo

Playing Why Riding a Jet Ski Can Be Dangerous If You're Not Careful

Jet skis are a popular way to enjoy some fun in the sun on the water, but with speeds reaching 60 mph and no brakes, they can also be potentially dangerous, especially for inexperienced operators.

In 2017, 46 people died while using personal watercraft and the deaths continue this summer.

Accidents on the watercraft are happening across the country and videos posted online have captured some of the near-fatal collisions.

Emily Milam was blindsided by a rogue jet ski that mowed her down last summer while swimming near a beach in Tennessee. 

“A jet ski just went loose and come through a swimming area and hit the beach,” a person tells a 911 dispatcher.

“Out of nowhere a jet ski just ran into me,” Milam told Inside Edition. 

Her mother, Gloria, witnessed the shocking accident. “There was no stopping it,” she told Inside Edition. “It came so fast, I thought she was dead.” 

The jet ski driver, Terry Merritt Jr., was charged with reckless endangerment.

Inside Edition Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero spoke to him on his way into court.

“Sir, do you have any reason why you were driving out of control, can you explain that?” she asked. 

“I wasn't driving out of control. I hit a wave,” he replied. "It was an accident and I'm sorry." 

Merritt has pleaded not guilty.

Attorney Tom Carey of Clearwater, Florida, was cruising on his boat in 2017 when out of nowhere, a high school principal slammed into the side of his boat. 

“These jets skis are tremendously dangerous,” he told Inside Edition. 

Craig Butz, who was driving the jet ski that hit Carey's boat, was drunk with his 4-year-old daughter riding in front with him when the accident occurred. Butz died, but his daughter survived.

Jet ski incidents are such an issue in Florida, Miami-Dade Police have their own special Marine Patrol Unit with some officers enforcing the maritime laws on jet skis.

Officer Grace Green invited Guerrero along as they patrolled the waters on a recent weekend.  

Inside Edition watched them issue ticket after ticket for speeding. In one instance, Guerrero spoke to a driver of a jet ski and asked, “Did you guys know you were speeding, which you’re not supposed to do under that bridge?”

“I thought I was going slow enough,” the driver said. 

Officers pulled over a man for speeding and found his son riding with him.

“How many times have you been on that jet ski?” Guerrero asked the man. 

The man admitted it was his first time riding one. 

“We see plenty of jet ski accidents and accidents that happen out here on the water are usual deadly," Green told Inside Edition. She added that typically "careless operation" and "inexperience" lead to accidents.

Bert Meyers, who runs Blind Pass Boat and Jet Ski Rental in St. Pete Beach, Florida, has a warning for all jet ski drivers.
 
“You're looking at a 700-pound torpedo that can do about 60 mph,” he said. “You have no brakes, it needs gas to steer, and you should never drink alcohol on a jet ski.”

Meyers stressed that many inexperienced operators fail to realize that you lose control of the steering when you release the throttles on these watercraft.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 81% of all boating deaths occur when the operator had no boating safety instruction.

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