First responders to deck collapse share rescue stories
NORTH BAY VILLAGE, Fla. (WSVN) -- Moments after part of the deck at Shuckers Bar and Grill plunged into Biscayne Bay Thursday night, first responders rushed in on land and by water and executed a massive rescue operation that earned praise from survivors and city officials alike.
Two Miami-Dade Fire Rescue divers said they jumped into the bay, right off the 79th Street Causeway, amid the pandemonium taking place above water. "There's definitely chaos on the surface," said firefighter Luis Cal. "You could hear emotion, but ... you're trying to focus, as many senses as you have, to see as much as you can underwater."
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Andre Cruzeta said time was of the essence. "We had to get in the water as soon as possible, because if someone's in there, they have a limited amount of time before survivability is zero to none," he said.
The divers were hailed as heroes by some of the victims, but the firefighters said they were just doing their job. "We train for zero visibility searches," said Cal. "We train completely blacked out, with plastic bags over our masks."
Close to 100 people were on the deck when it collapsed. Two dozen were injured and taken to the hospital. Fortunately, there were no casualties. "Luckily, like I said, the patrons of the restaurant, the employees, the initial police officers, did an excellent job of helping out everyone that needed help out of the water," said Cruzeta.
Cal said he always thinks about his loved ones whenever he is about to perform a rescue mission. "Before any major call, the first thing I think about is my family, my wife and kids," he said. "I try to imagine if they were at that incident, if they were hurt, I hope the people that are responding to that call are going to do whatever they can to help my family."
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue will be holding a debrief on Monday. They will take a closer look at Thursday's rescue operation step by step.
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