PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla.- According to Pinellas County Sheriff a 24-foot boat with 7-teens, crashed overnight at mile marker 28 in the intercoastal waterway.
According to investigators, deputies received a call of a boat crash in the Intercostal 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, Rachel Herring, was missing.
Deputies on scene were able to use a phone app to locate Rachel approximately one half mile south of the crash site floating in the water. She was pronounced deceased on scene.
Detectives learned 16-year-old Gavin Johnston and five other juveniles boarded the boat at Johnston’s residence on Saturday, October 31, 2020 at approximately 7:30 p.m. 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 to the party at approximately 9:00 p.m.
Investigators discovered there were approximately 25-40 juveniles at the location that were consuming alcohol or marijuana. In the upstairs of that same residence was a party attended by adults.
Detectives learned the juveniles left the location at approximately 12:15 a.m.travelling Northbound in the ICW. Johnston brought the vessel on plane and was travelling at a high rate of speed, exceeding the no-wake requirement for that area. The vessel struck a metal mile marker causing all seven passengers to be ejected from the boat into the water.
At this time there is no indication that Johnston was under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. Investigators with the Major Accident Investigation Team conducted Field Sobriety Tests and Johnston did not show indicators of impairment. Johnston was arrested and taken to the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center charged with Vessel Homicide.
Those on board the boat were not wearing life jackets at the time of the crash.
The medical examiner will work to determine the exact cause of death.
Speed does appear to be a factor in this case. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri gave a press conference on scene which can be found at our YouTube page.
The investigation continues.
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