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Largo Teen Charged in Boating Crash That Killed 16-Year-Old Girl

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Although there was alcohol on the boat, the driver was not impaired, Pinellas deputies say. None of the teens on the boat was wearing a life jacket.

INDIAN SHORES – Deputies from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office are investigating a boating crash that left a 16-year-old girl dead and a teenage boy charged with her death.

Rachel Herring, 16, died at the scene. The medical examiner will work to determine the exact cause of death. Another teen was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg for treatment of minor injuries. No one else was injured.

The 16-year-old boy who was driving the boat was charged with one count of Vessel Homicide. At this time there is no indication that the teen driver was under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. Investigators with the Major Accident Investigation Team conducted Field Sobriety Tests and he did not show indicators of impairment.

Just because he wasn’t under the influence doesn’t mean there’s not criminal culpability, but the basis is not drugs or alcohol, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press conference.

Those on board the boat were not wearing life jackets at the time of the crash and, investigators said, speed does appear to be a factor.

According to investigators, deputies received a call about 12:30 a.m. Sunday (Nov. 1) of a boat crash in the Intracoastal Waterway near the intersection of Whitehurst Avenue and Gulf Boulevard in Indian Shores. Deputies responded to the location and learned seven juveniles were on board at the time and one female passenger – Ms. Herring – was missing.

Deputies on scene were able to use a phone app to find Ms. Herring about one-half mile south of the crash site floating in the water.

Detectives said they learned the driver and five other juveniles boarded the boat at the driver’s home about 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 31). 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. Witnesses say they arrived at the party about 9 p.m.

Investigators discovered there were about 25-40 juveniles at the location who were consuming alcohol or marijuana. Deputies said that, upstairs in the same residence, adults were also holding a party.

The juveniles left the location at about 12:15 a.m. and headed north in the Intracoastal. The driver brought the vessel on plane and was traveling at a high rate of speed, exceeding the no-wake requirement for that area. Deputies said the vessel struck a metal mile marker causing all seven passengers to be ejected from the boat into the water.

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