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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A powerful speedboat on its way back to South Florida from Bimini struck and nearly killed a snorkeler in the Atlantic Ocean Friday afternoon off the Haulover Marina, according to state authorities.
Jorge Pino, a spokesman for FWC—the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission—told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that the unidentified snorkeler was rushed to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital with life-threatening “critical” injuries.
“They were out there on the ocean enjoying a wonderful day when the snorklers saw a vessel approaching them,” said Pino. “They tried to make it back to the boat they were in. The large vessel was coming from Bimini with three men on board. One gentleman was struck. We don’t know how this happened.”
Part of the Haulover Marina was sealed off with yellow crime scene tape as more than a half dozen FWC investigators spoke with the three men who were on board the gold speedboat with five outboard motors that struck the snorkeler. The driver of that boat was interviewed on scene and then taken to FWC headquarters, which was standard procedure in such cases.
Pino said initially that boat driver did not provide a statement.
Pino said his father showed up at the scene and consulted with an attorney. Neither person commented as they left the Haulover Marina.
Investigators also spoke with the two men who were on the victim’s smaller boat with a tan canopy. At the time of the accident, one man was on that boat and the second man was in the water with the victim.
Florida law requires snorkelers and divers to display a red and white “diver down” flag when they are in the water. Pino told D’Oench it appeared that flag was up.
It’s not clear how this accident happened.
“As in every boating accident, somebody needs to be held responsible,” said Pino. “We need to determine how this happened.”
Pino said he did not expect charges to be filed by the end of the day. There are a number of stories to sort out.
He said it did not appear that alcohol was a factor in this accident.
At FWC headquarters, the boater’s attorney, Sam Rabin, spoke on his behalf, calling the collision an “accident.”
“My client did not see the person in the water, and I want to say very clearly, unequivocally, there were no drugs and no alcohol involved in this accident,” said Rabin. (“My client is) a young man who recently acquired this boat, was out with two friends and feels very badly about what happened today.”
Pino said FWC wanted witnesses to come forward if they saw the accident and can help investigators.
He said the number to call at FWC is (305) 470-6863.
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