MIAMI (CBS4) – The body of a man who vanished over the weekend while on a personal watercraft was found floating in the Intracoastal Waterway just south of the Julia Tuttle Causeway early Monday morning.
It was the second time in 25 years the family had lost a loved one through an accident on the water. This latest accident claimed the life of 26-year-old Javier Lopez, who family members say was an avid boater. In 1986, Lopez’s father died in a boating accident in Cuba.
“He was very happy,” said Lizandra Lopez, the victim’s niece. She told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “He was very family oriented. I still can’t believe it. He loved water sports. He was always on his jet ski. He loved going out on the water with friends. I can’t believe this has happened.”
Lopez greeted and embraced other loved ones and friends as they stopped by the Lopez family home in West Miami-Dade to pay their respects and offer their condolences. It was a deeply touching scene, as a number of visitors broke down and wept uncontrollably, reported D’Oench.
Javier Lopez went missing Sunday night near Watson Island. His friends said he wanted to stay on the water into the evening so he planned to meet them at the boat launch at 10:00 p.m.
Gabriella Ferraro, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said when Lopez failed to show up, his friends called 911 and reported him missing. The Coast Guard searched for Lopez into the night and early morning hours but they were unable to find him.
Around 4:00 a.m. searchers recovered Lopez’s watercraft; a short time later they found the body of a Hispanic man wearing a life jacket.
“My grandfather died the same way,” said Lizandra Lopez, a reference to the fishing boat accident in 1986 in Cuba.
“He’s a very good uncle, he always takes us out when we come down here,” said Lizandra. “He likes to spend time with us.”
Officials said the personal water craft found in Biscayne Bay did sustain damage but it is not clear how it happened.
Investigators are looking into whether his water craft had a collision with another vessel.
They are looking for leads in this case. They hope witnesses or those with knowledge about this case will call 1-888-404-FWC.
According to the FWC, personal watercraft may not be operated from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise, even if navigation lights are used. Remember, both federal and state law requires the use of navigation lights on all vessels from sunset to sunrise.