Rescue Calls Paint Chilling Picture Of Fourth Of July Boating Accident
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Family and friends are mourning the loss of four people killed July 4 in a boating accident as officials investigate how the accident occurred.
Three boats and 22 people were involved in two crashes after fireworks ended Friday night.
Officials described the scene as one playing out in darkness with boats driving in all directions at a high rate of speed.
It’s typical for hundreds of boats to line Miami’s Intracoastal waterway for Fourth of July fireworks displays.
“Firework show was over around 9:30. Everyone started departing. It was like mayhem,” said Chris Cozad.
Cozad was on the water with his family in the middle of the mayhem, trying to decide how to get home.
“There was just too many boats. And then once we did, there was just boats crisscrossing in front of us, behind us. Nobody was paying attention,” added Cozad.
At 10:34 p.m., the accident happened.
The calls came in to law enforcement and rescue agencies:
Caller: We have a serious collision out here. A boat, it’s got, there was a collision here, and the boat is breaking apart. I’m pulling one in right now, is there anybody else?
Caller: Mayday Coast Guard, child doesn’t have a pulse. I’m going to shoot up a flare.
Caller: We got a boat over here that looks like it’s unmanned, doing circles. Uh, that boat impacted me already.
Three boats had collided just south of the Rickenbacker Causeway, in between Coral Gables and Key Biscayne.
Caller: Coast Guard, I got a boy, a severely injured boy here, I’m flashing the lights. We have a nurse trying to revive this child, giving him CPR. This is critical. You’re going away from us Coast Guard, you’re going to the other boat. Please we need you here!
Boats from Miami Fire Rescue, Key Biscayne, Coral Gables, Florida Fish and Wildlife and the Coast Guard responded.
Caller: Mayday, Mayday, I see your flashing lights, you’re going the wrong way.
Ignatious Carroll with Miami Fire Rescue described the night’s events.
“This was a very chaotic scene. This was considered a level one mass casualty incident with Miami Fire Rescue,” said Carroll.
Fire Rescue airlifted boaters to Kendall Regional, as Jackson Memorial’s trauma unit became overwhelmed.
“We had… I don’t even know the number of people that we had injured and that were brought in,” said Jorge Pino with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The search went into the early hours of Saturday morning.
Hours after the crash, Saturday morning, Victoria Dempsey was found floating about a half-a-mile away from the crash site.
Just before noon Saturday, divers spotted Captain Andy Garcia, the son a retired firefighter in about 12-feet of water.
He was roughly 500-feet from the accident.
According to Florida Fish and Wildlife here is what is known right now.
Garcia was the helm of this 32-foot Contender, with four others aboard.
Somehow his boat slammed squarely into a 36-foot Carrera.
Captain Garcia along with Victoria Dempsey, and Kelsie Karpiak died.
Eight people were aboard the Carrera including a two-year-old and five-year-old.
Many of the passengers survived, except for Jason Soleimani from New York.
The Contender kept moving forward after the accident crashing into a brand new Boston Whaler.
One person had a minor injury.
FWC said there was evidence of alcohol on one of the vessels involved, but it is not clear whether the operator of that vessel was drinking.
The investigation is ongoing.
Watch David Sutta’s report, click here.
Read Jim DeFede’s report from November 6, 2013: County Fireboats: Dead in the Water