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FWC: Four Dead After Boat Collision Off Dinner Key

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Four people are dead after a three boat crash off Dinner Key Saturday morning, according to FWC.

“It’s a tragedy for us to see something like this happen,” said Jorge Pino with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. “This is probably the worst accident I’ve seen in my eleven-year history of being with FWC where four people die in one single accident.”

Officials said many more were hurt.  It happened just after the Fourth of July fireworks.

“Right after the fireworks everyone makes a mad dash to get back to the dock we believe that’s exactly when the accident occurred,” said Pino.

Rescue crews were able to rescue several people and bring them ashore. They were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital and Mercy Hospital and Kendall Regional Medical Center.

Officials received notification from a boater on a 36-foot pleasure craft saying his boat was hit by another pleasure craft. His boat was taking on water and several people were in the water with injuries.

The man also said the vessel that struck his boat did not stop after the collision.

Commercial crews were able to find the boat they believed to be involved in the wreck.

Captain Burt Korpela of Atlantis Marine Towing and Salvage responded when one boat was circling out-of-control with two unconscious people on board.

“This was a horrible, horrible accident,” said Korpela to CBS4’s Maggie Newland Saturday. “The boat was running out of control in circles 20-25 miles per hour, limited lights on the boat. You’ve got to jump from one boat to another it’s just the most extreme you can do and this accident was just terrible, I mean there was just so much chaos going on.”

Firefighters described a chaotic scene where they didn’t know how many people were injured or missing.

“We didn’t get accurate stories as far as everything actually happened, but they said everything happened very fast, it’s also very dark outside,” said Lt. Ignatius Carroll with Miami Fire Rescue.

Two people died Friday night, two more bodies were found Saturday morning.

When Coast Guard crews contacted the owner of the boat which allegedly hit the vessel, officials were informed, the owner’s son had taken the vessel out Friday evening.

The father of one of those killed is a retired Miami Dade Fire Rescue fire boat captain, Jack Garcia. Last year, Garcia complained to CBS4’s Jim DeFede that lives were being put at risk because the county’s two fire boats were no longer responding to calls so the department could save money. Instead they were being kept docked at PortMiami.

“When people die on the water nobody cares,” when he spoke with CBS4’s Jim Defede in 2013.

Friday night, sources told CBS4’s Jim DeFede that a request was made to send the county fire boats, but that request was denied and the boats remained at PortMiami.

Saturday morning Garcia texted CBS4’s Jim DeFede with the message: “I’ve paid the ultimate price, I’m out on my boat looking for my son’s body.”

Andrew Garcia, 28, of Palmetto Bay was confirmed as one of the deceased by family members.

The family members with Jack Garcia searching for survivors complained to CBS4’s Jim DeFede that it appeared that none of the agencies involved in the initial search continued looking for the bodies of Garcia’s and one of the female victims between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., and so Garcia took his own boat out to conduct the search. It was Garcia’s boat that pulled the female victim out of the water and turned her body over to FWC Saturday morning.

Both the Coast Guard and FWC said they had multiple boats searching the water all night long and FWC tells a different story about the recovery.

“It was a joint effort, the family was there, some of our divers, some law enforcement and fire divers were the ones who located the body, but they were there assisting in the search,” added Pino.

Miami Fire Rescue Lt. Ignatius Carroll described the scene Friday evening as rescuers tried to determine how many people were in the water.

“The numbers kept growing and growing,” Carroll said.

He recounted how one man waited anxiously at the dock to find out what had happened to his two grandchildren. Both arrived safely to shore.

“We were relieved to be able to let him know that they were OK,” Carroll said.

While many questions are still being asked about the scene, first responders agreed the crash was tragic and there is a lot still left to sort out.

“We’d like to give our heartfelt condolences for the families for the loss,” said Korpela.

Kelsie Karpiak also died in the crash. Family members were too distraught to speak with CBS4 News.

Two other victims’ names have not been released.

The conditions of the injured boaters are not known.

Four of the injured were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, three were taken to Mercy Hospital and two were taken to Kendall Regional Medical Center with varying degrees of injuries.

FWC officials continue to investigate the cause of the collision.

Watch Maggie Newland’s report, click here.

Watch MaryAnn Martinez’s report, click here.

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