Police seek to make Boca Bash safer after man drowns

Boca Bash is one big party on the water, but this year, for the first time, not everyone made it out alive. And that has police studying ways to make the event safer next year.

Police say Francis Roselin, 32, of , drowned Sunday while trying to swim out to dozens of boats tied together in the middle of Lake Boca for the raucous celebration that has become a yearly tradition.

“I’m always saddened to hear of a tragedy in our city,” Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer said. “Law enforcement does its best to keep people safe, especially when large groups of people come in.’’

Boca Raton officials say they cannot keep boaters from anchoring in Lake Boca, a stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway controlled by the state.

But on Monday, Police Chief Dan Alexander said he and his staff plan to review what they might do differently next year. That could include assigning more police marine units to the event. This year, Boca Police had four marine units on patrol and other officers stationed at the boat ramp and surrounding neighborhoods.

“We don’t have lifeguards out there,” police spokesman Mark Economou said. “We do have marine units. And all those boats tied together makes it difficult to get to people. We’re going to look at past years and where our resources were and if there’s anything we need to do different to make it safer next year.”

On Sunday afternoon, Roselin and a friend were on a boat anchored on the west end of the lake not far from the Boca Raton Resort and Club, Economou said.

They decided to jump into the water shortly before 3 p.m. and swim over to the sandbar, where most of the boats were.

“The friend was tired and grabbed onto a boat,” Economou said. “He looked back and didn’t see [Roselin] anymore. He flagged down one of our marine units.”

The U.S. Coast Guard and a marine unit from Florida Fish and Wildlife and Boynton Beach joined in the search, along with a Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office helicopter.

Roselin remained missing for two hours until a swimmer spotted his body at the bottom of the Intracoastal around 5 p.m., Economou said. The water was around 5 feet deep at the time.

Boca Raton resident Bruce Gipson says he paddled over to the party on his surfski kayak around 4 p.m., but didn’t stay long.

“It’s just wall-to-wall boats,” he said. “It reminds me of one big college dorm party on water that just goes on forever. It gets crazy. That whole scene is such a circus.”

The gathering has been part of the annual celebration for at least a decade. Last year, two people were taken to the hospital because they were unresponsive, but it was unclear whether it was due to excessive drinking or drugs, a Boca Raton Fire Rescue official said at the time. Several people were also treated for cuts and bruises.

Boca Bash has traditionally landed on the last Sunday in April every year, but it’s not clear just how the celebration got its start. Some organizers have said it started as a giant birthday party for a local.

“Those are state waters so we can’t ban Boca Bash or stop Boca Bash,” Economou said. “We can’t shut it down.”

On Monday, police were investigating the drowning and awaiting the results of an autopsy.

Anyone with information is urged to Detective Lazarus Kimsal at.

Staff Writers Marci Shatzman and Erika Pesantes contributed to this report.