Boat capsizes near Miami Seaquarium
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (WSVN) -- A 45-foot boat capsized Sunday evening near Key Biscayne, tossing 30 people and a dog into the water.
The homemade boat, built with parts from different boats, began taking on water near the Miami Seaquarium. Good Samaritans, the Coast Guard, state wildlife officials and commercial boats were among several rescuers that helped pull people out of the water.
"There was people floating in the water; there was a guy holding on to a cooler," Dena Miret, one of the rescuers, said. "We had actually five people and a dog on our boat."
Sea Tow Key Biscayne's Russell Inman said he was first to respond. "The guys stood back and said, 'Take our girlfriends first,' so we pulled all the girls out of the water," Inman said. "A couple of them seemed like they were having a good time with it, but there was one girl that was definitely, she was definitely in shock. She was split up from her boyfriend, and she wasn't even able to tell me her name."
"The seas last night, or when this happened, were very rough, so it's a miracle that nobody died," Florida Fish and Wildlife spokesman Jorge Pino said.
The boat was privately owned and had allegedly been charging patrons to taxi them to a party on the Nixon Beach sandbar. Authorities are investigating whether or not the boat's operator, Otho Durward Campbell, is a licensed captain but also whether or not he had too many people on board.
"They were traversing back from Nixon Beach, back to Brickell Key, and apparently at some point the vessel started to take on water," Pino said.
"It was completely crazy because we weren't expecting anything like that," a boater said. "You go out on a boat, you think it's going to be safe because you're there with a captain and everything and suddenly the boat starts leaning forward and suddenly stops and starts to go down."
Less then 24 hours after the boat went down, divers were out searching for treasure, already finding purses and iPhones. "We found probably 15 iPhones and purses and clothes and party vests," Anne Snyder said.
Authorities are warning holiday revelers to seek out licensed and skilled sea captains prior to going out on the water. "It's incumbent upon the people that are going to make that decision to do their homework and make sure the person is properly licensed," Pino said, "that the boat is seaworthy."
The boat is still partially submerged in 6 to 8 feet of water. All of those on board were rescued and no one was hurt.
It could cost in the tens of thousands of dollars to tow the boat away professionally.
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