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FWC Identifies Man Killed In Boating Accident Near Elliott Key

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MIAMI (CBS4)- The man killed in a boating accident off Elliott Key Saturday during the Columbus Day festivities has been identified.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Jorge Pino, Juan Carlos Morales, 45, was aboard a 65-foot luxury yacht and fell off while the boat was moving. Officials said the Morales fell right into the propellers and died.

Morales was a friend of the yacht’s owner and the name of the yacht involved is “The Gotcha,” CBS4′s Gio Benitez reported. He was with friends and family aboard the yacht.

Authorities do not know if alcohol played a role in the accident.

A large fleet of powerboats always anchors off Elliott Key for a weekend. It’s often considered a celebration featuring non- stop music, dancing and drinking.

Law enforcement officers and emergency medical responders made up of park rangers, U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Miami-Dade police and fire rescue units will patrol the bay and local marinas.

However, they want South Florida boaters to think twice about going out on the water during dangerous weather conditions.

“If you are comfortable operating your vessel in those conditions, then by all means, do it. But if you’re not, if you haven’t been out on your boat in quite awhile, if your boat isn’t quite as seaworthy as you think it is, then think twice about going out tomorrow. The last thing we want is to encounter some sort of emergency out there,” said FWC spokesman Jorge Pino.

For those who do brave the wet and windy conditions, officers will be checking boats for proper safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and lifejackets, and to make sure operators stay sober. Anyone found boating under the influence will be jailed and their boat could be confiscated.

“One of our main targets for the weekend will be boating under the influence. There will be a zero tolerance for any boating under the influence violations,” said Wayne Rybeck from Biscayne National Park. “It is very important for our visitors to remain safe and be responsible when visiting the park.”

In previous years, several boaters have been killed and scores of others injured and arrested during the holiday celebration.

Officials want everyone to know the rules and stay safe.

Special regulations will be in effect over the three-day weekend:

  • Vessels must anchor in a designated area on the west side of Elliott Key
  • No more than five boats may be rafted together in that area
  • A minimum distance of 75 feet is required between rafts of vessels or between individual boats
  • No unauthorized commercial activity
  • Vessels with loud music may be cited and audio equipment confiscated

Here are some other boating safety tips:

To prevent damage to fragile sea grass beds, park rangers will patrol the Featherbed Banks area and direct boaters away to keep them from grounding. At night, some sea grass meadows will be marked with strobe lights.

  • There should be one lifejacket for each person aboard
  • The boat must have a fire extinguisher
  • Boat lights must work
  • Don’t boat while drunk
  • Watch the weather
  • Develop a float plan. Make sure someone knows how long you’ll be gone
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water
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