4th of July Deadly for Boaters, Partiers
The 4th of July fireworks in Miami had just concluded when a white, 32-foot boat carrying five young adults crashed violently with another vessel in the night.
The boat's operator was thrown overboard. Another passenger was tossed into the water, and two others left critically injured and unconscious.
With no one at the helm, the boat circled in the dark, crashing into a third vessel before a commercial salvage crew was able to pull up alongside it, jump aboard and bring it to a stop.
When the waters calmed again, rescuers struggled through the dark to piece together a devastating toll: Four dead, eight injured.
"I can tell you, based on the officers on scene, it was one of the most chaotic scenes that they have ever been involved in," said Jorge Pino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Sunday.
Authorities identified the victims as: 23-year-old Andrew Garcia, 20-year-old Victoria Dempsey, and 24-year-old KelsieKarpiak, all from Miami and on the first boat. Jason Soleimani, 23, of Old Westbury, New York, was on the second vessel and killed immediately.
This accident was just one tragedy related to the holiday, In Polk County, a 49-year-old mother has died from burns she received when fireworks were accidentally ignited in her Auburndale home, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Kathryn Flint died Saturday, following the explosion during a 4th of July party. Her son also was injured, and a family dog was killed in the fire, the Sentinel reports.
In the Miami crash, hundreds of boats were in the waters of Biscayne Bay, admiring the fireworks along Miami's gleaming skyline. Pino said the minute the fireworks conclude boaters typically rush toward Dinner Key Marina, hoping to get their boat out of the water first.
"So you have hundreds of vessels moving at one time, in the dark, which is a recipe for disaster," he said.
It's still unknown what speeds the boats were traveling at, but investigators say the second vessel was hit with such force that a hole was left in its side. Eight people were on board the 36-foot-long fiberglass vessel, including a 2-year-old girl. In addition to Soleimani, six people were injured and hospitalized, one in critical condition.
The toddler and another child were not injured.
Pino said no charges have been filed, though the investigation remains ongoing.