Sarasota Sailing Club Propeller Kills Boy: Ethan Isaacs

Ethan Issacs

Ethan Isaacs

Ethan Isaacs, age 10, was dropped off along with his brother by his mother at Sarasota Youth Sailing Club on Saturday morning 21 November 2020. Their mother waited for them.

Ethan Isaacs, the ten year-old boy struck by a boat propeller and killed in the accident was in the 6th grade at Pine View School for the Gifted in Osprey, Florida. He won the school’s science fair last year. The school furnished counselors to his classes.

News media repeatedly refers to the accident as a boat crash. Although the investigation continues, early reports indicate a boy was near a capsized 8 foot sailboat. An 18 year old young man operating a power boat belonging to the facility came by to rescue him. As the powerboat approached the boy, the operator lost his footing, went overboard, his body pushed the throttle forward as he fell overboard, and the unmanned boat went into the Circle of Death. The power boat went on to strike several small sailboats. From news reports, it is not obvious if Ethan Isaacs was the boy seen in the water by the boat operator, or was near the other boats struck by the unmanned power boat. News reports indicate the power boat operator later regained control of the power boat.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued the following statement on Saturday, November 21, 2020:

Today, at approximately 11:30 a.m., the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) received a report from the Sarasota Police Department of a boating accident in Sarasota Bay, Sarasota County. The accident involved two vessels operating just north of the Ringling Causeway that were taking part in a youth club sailing practice. The FWC, Sarasota Police Department and Sarasota County Fire all responded to the scene. One person, a juvenile under the age of 13, sustained serious injuries from the accident and was transported to the hospital. Sadly, the injured juvenile passed away from his injuries. We send our sincerest condolences to the friends and family of those involved in this accident and will continue to keep those impacted by this tragic incident in our thoughts and prayers for the difficult days ahead.

Ethan Isaacs was to have been life flighted to a hospital but due to weather issues he was ground transported to Sarasota Memorial Hospital where he died from his injuries. There were major traffic delays in the area of Ringling Causeway as the bridge was shut down for two hours following the accident for the investigation. The accident happened just north of the bridge.

U.S. Sailing issued this statement:

Statement from US Sailing

All of us at US Sailing are deeply saddened to learn that a young sailing student tragically died as a result of an accident on the water during a youth sailing practice in Sarasota Bay on Saturday, November 21, 2020. We send our deepest condolences to the sailor’s family, the youth involved in the accident, and to the instructors, staff and volunteers of Sarasota Youth Sailing. The sailing community is united in support and sympathy during this time.

The incident is currently under investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and will provide additional updates as they become available.

US Sailing has offered our support to Sarasota Youth Sailing, and as we learn more about this tragic accident, there may be further helpful information to share as appropriate.

Initial reports said Ethan was the only person injured in the accident. Later reports included a couple more boys being injured.

Several people were present at the time of the accident. FWC investigators are trying to interview all of them.

Sarasota Youth Sailing

Sarasota Youth Sailing logo

Sarasota Youth Sailing logo

Sarasota Florida Youth Sailing Club, founded over 50 years ago, on City Island is a nonprofit annually teaching sailing to about 400 youth on Sarasota Bay.

Ethan Isaacs was participating with what is called the Green Fleet at Sarasota Youth Sailing.

Sarasota Youth Sailing Club sails on Sarasota Bay by Sarasota, Florida.

Sarasota Youth Sailing provided the following statement:

Sarasota Youth Sailing offers our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of the Green Fleet Sailor who was involved in Saturday’s tragedy. This sailor is one of our new and amazing team members and a beloved member of our program, as is his entire family. This is a tragedy for the entire family, the sailor’s friends, schoolmates, and all those who knew, loved and sailed with him. Sarasota Youth Sailing is supporting all individuals involved as they process yesterday’s event.

Sun Coast News Network 21 November 2020 video


Updates to Our Coverage of the Ethan Isaacs Accident

  1. UPDATE #1 – court filings and Ethan’s Law


Reference Materials

Strong Similarities Between This Accident and the Ryan Weiss Accident in New York

We anticipate a renewed discussion about the use of propeller guards on power boats used in youth instruction following the Sarasota Youth Sailing accident.

In July 2017, Ryan Weiss, age 12, was killed by the propeller of an instructor’s boat at Centerport Yacht Club on Long Island, New York.

Centerport Yacht Club RIB involved in the accident

Centerport Yacht Club RIB involved in the accident

The Ryan Weiss accident led to a few years of propeller guard discussions resulting in requirements for power boats used in instructing youth in Suffolk County, and later in the entire State of New York to have boat propeller guards.

The Weiss accident involved three boys participating in a training exercise in which they were to capsize their sailboat. Two boys stayed with the sailboat. An 18 year-old instructor picked up the third boy in a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) and took off for the club. Ryan fell off the back of the RIB and was killed by the boat’s propeller.

Several links of our coverage of the Ryan Weiss – Centerport Yacht Club Accident and the resulting propeller guard discussion are provided below.

Australia Youth Sailing Propeller Guards

Australia has long urged the use of propeller guards in connection with youth sailing facilities.

See our post titled Yachting Australia Issues Safety Notice Calling for Propeller Guards.

An Australian advocate for propeller guards speaks out in the Gowrie Safety Report in which a large insurance operation is encouraging the use of propeller guards in yacht clubs and community sailing facilities.


Updates to Our Coverage of the Ethan Isaacs Accident

  1. UPDATE #1 – court filings and Ethan’s Law



  1. It s been two days since the crash in Sarasota Bay during a youth sailing practice. The accident occurred around 11:30 a.m. Saturday, just north of the Ringling Causeway. On the following day, the principal of Pine View Elementary sent a message to families letting them know the boy who died in Saturday s boating accident was a h-grade student at the school, Ethan Isaacs.

  2. I was one of the sailors there I saw what happened to him and the other kids. I picked up a kid who had been cut in the head by a propeller and brought him to safety this is my story.

    • Sorry you had to go through that traumatic experience.

      Thanks for sharing your story and thanks for helping the boy you rescued.


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