As Boca Bash drew thousands, here’s how many were arrested on drunken boating charges

BOCA RATON — At least a dozen people were arrested at the Boca Bash, one of South Florida’s biggest parties on the water, after last year’s was canceled.

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrested 10 people on charges of boating under the influence of alcohol.
  • The wildlife commission arrested one person on charges of disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest.
  • Boca Raton police arrested one attendee on the charge of resisting arrest without violence,

The tally of those arrested may rise: Citations and tickets from other agencies will take a day or two to get from those agencies that assisted, including Boynton Beach Police and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Economou said.

“I’m glad people had fun, but I’m also glad it’s over,” said City Councilman Andy Thomson. “It’s an incredibly taxing day for our first responders.”

In addition to the arrests reported by law enforcement, he expressed concern about the spread of COVID-19, noting the crowd was almost entirely unmasked and clustered together despite it being an outdoor event.

“The photos were disappointing,” Thomson said. “I want folks to be able to have fun but we also need to be responsible.”

Chad Hamilton, one of the event’s organizers, said he Initially “was a little anxious to see the turnout, as I didn’t want it to be overwhelming seeing how we did have to cancel last year.” But he said he thought the event was “phenomenal” with “the great help from our city and first responders.”

The gathering has been an annual tradition for more than a decade but took a break in 2020 amid concerns over the party turning into a COVID-19 super-spreader event during the pandemic.

Safety concerns intensified after a fatality occurred in 2018 when Francis Roselin, 32, drowned while trying to swim out to dozens of boats tied together in the middle of Lake Boca.

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His death prompted a crackdown from law enforcement the following year. A total of 14 arrests were made in 2019 — including 12 for boating under the influence.

Mayor Scott Singer said he was grateful for the presence of first responders at the Boca Bash, but expressed frustration that the city isn’t able to regulate activity on the lake. The state maintains jurisdiction over that waterway and so the city needs special permission to institute regulations on boaters dropping their anchors or tying up to one another.

“It is a challenge. I wouldn’t say it’s an issue, we have to have plenty of boats there and they have to be well-positioned to make sure they can respond,” Singer said. “You never want to get a concern where somebody is in distress and an emergency responder can’t get to them quickly enough. Thankfully it’s not an issue, but it’s a risk and we want to mitigate against that risk.”

Singer said there are significant costs that stem from watching the bash, and “it’s one of the reasons we consistently ask the Legislature for more ability to regulate these waterways. Eventually Tallahassee is going to have to address this for our and other communities.”

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