Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Florida: Update--Investigation Continues in Multiple Boat Disaster in Miami on July 4

According to The Miami New Times, more than 48 hours after four people were killed and several others injured in a gruesome boat collision near Dinner Key, authorities are still attempting to determine the cause of a catastrophic boat collision late on July 4.

"Now it's just a matter of putting the pieces of the puzzle together," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spokesman Jorge Pino told Riptide Sunday evening. "We have to take the physical evidence and combine that with the electronic evidence that we have, which includes GPS position and speed."

What is known is that around 2240 hours on Friday, a boat carrying five people, at least four of whom were under 25, collided with another vessel, carrying eight, about three miles south of the Rickenbacker Causeway. 

Jason Soleimani, 23, died immediately from the impact; Kelsie Karpiak, 24, was pronounced dead upon arrival at Jackson Memorial Hospital; and two others, Andrew García, 23, and Victoria Dempsey, 20, were missing Friday night  and recovered dead from the water Saturday (July 5).

Soleimani was on board the second boat and a was resident of Old Westbury, NY; Karpiak, García, and Dempsey--all Miami residents--were aboard the first boat, a 2003 32-foot Contender.

COMMENT:  The one missing link, at least in this multiple disaster, is whether the blood alcohol levels in any of the operators were measured?

As of Sunday (July 6), Catherine Payan, also 24, and a passenger on the first boat, was in critical condition at Jackson Memorial, and the boat's fifth passenger, Samantha Rolth, was recovering from head injuries at Kendall Regional. 

Dayanara Arías, 39, a passenger on the second boat, was also critically injured and is recovering at Jackson Memorial. 

Three other passengers from the second boat: Lynda, Heather, and Shawn Hanono--were listed in stable condition at Mercy Hospital.

After colliding with the second vessel, the first boat lost control and hit a third vessel, carrying nine people. Eight of the nine were uninjured; one woman, Cynthia Panagua, 49, suffered a thigh laceration. 

All the boats were on their way back to the marina after the conclusion of Friday night's fireworks. 

On Saturday a local sea tow captain, Burt Korpela of Atlantis Marine Towing and Salvage, told CBS4 how chaotic the scene was after the first boat continued in motion after the collision with two unconscious people on board. 

Authorities are calling the crash the deadliest local boating accident in recent memory. 

"I've been doing law enforcement for 25 years; I've never seen anything like that," Pino said. "To have four people die as a result of a single accident is pretty devastating."

In 2013 the FWC counted 62 boating fatalities in Florida -- the highest in the nation -- and four in Miami-Dade. 

The county also registered 50 injuries, the highest in the state.