By Mary Hladky
The failure of city and state officials to regulate or control the “wild and overcrowded” Boca Bash boating party last year caused the drowning of Francis Roselin, according to a lawsuit filed Jan. 25 against the city and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Roselin, 32, of West Palm Beach, was last seen swimming in Lake Boca during the April 29 Boca Bash before he was reported missing. His body was found five hours later at the bottom of the lake.
Tamekia Rich, the mother of Roselin’s 5-year-old daughter, A’niylah, and the personal representative of Roselin’s estate filed the lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
Rich contends that the city and the wildlife commission were negligent because they did not control Boca Bash, allowed too many boats into Lake Boca and failed to remove boats when it became apparent they caused a hazard to public safety.
“We are alleging the city of Boca Raton and the wildlife commission had an obligation to maintain that waterway safely,” said Boca Raton attorney Dan Moses, who represents Rich. “By turning a blind eye, [Boca Bash] got out of hand and very dangerous.”
A city spokeswoman said that, as of Jan. 29, the city had not been served with the lawsuit. She did not comment on the allegations. A spokeswoman for the FWC did not immediately return a call requesting comment.
The hugely popular annual Boca Bash started in 2006 and now attracts about 1,500 vessels and 10,000 attendees. It is not a city-sponsored event, but has grown through word of mouth and social media, Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander told the City Council on June 11 after its members asked him about the event and Roselin’s death.
Alexander told the City Council that he assigned 38 police officers to the event. The wildlife commission, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies assisted his department. City fire-rescue units answered 15 calls for help.
City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser said there was little the city could do to control Boca Bash because the state limits what local governments can do with inland waters. She suggested the city lobby the Florida Legislature to change state law.
But Rich’s lawsuit maintains that Florida law allows the city and FWC to order the removal of vessels that are a hazard to public safety. It also states that city police and the commission “owed a duty of care” to Boca Bash attendees.