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4 young adults ID'd as victims in Fla. boat crash

Miami Boat Crash Kills 4, Puts Water Safety In Focus


MIAMI (AP) -- The 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.

That was the account investigators detailed Sunday, two days after the deadly Fourth of July crash.

"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.

Authorities identified the victims as: 23-year-old Andrew Garcia, 20-year-old Victoria Dempsey, and 24-year-old Kelsie Karpiak, all from Miami and on the first boat. Jason Soleimani, 23, of Old Westbury, New York, was on the second vessel and killed immediately.

The crash happened at about 10:45 p.m. Friday, as 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.

Meanwhile, the first vessel continued on, its captain thrown in the water, striking a 35-foot Boston Whaler with nine people on board. Only one sustained minor injuries.

Capt. Burt Korpela of Atlantis Marine Towing and Salvage was one of the first on the scene, responding to a distress call.

He encountered a horrific sight: The first boat, still spinning out of control.

"The boat was running out of control in circles 20 to 25 miles per hour, limited lights on the boat," Korpela told CBS4. "You've got to jump from one boat to another. It's just the most extreme you can do and this accident was terrible."

One of the women found unconscious on the boat, Karpiak, was pronounced dead after being taken to the hospital. Another, 24-year-old Kathy Payne, was in critical condition.

Garcia - believed to be the operator of the first boat - and Dempsey, both thrown overboard, were found dead on Saturday.

Pino said no charges have been filed, though the investigation remains ongoing.

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odcloth July 06 2014 at 5:51 PM

Tragic, but not surprising. Being a safe boater for over 40 years, I see a continuing lack of respect, lack of courtesy and total lack of knowledge of rules of the road among the younger and inexperienced boating crowd. I have often commented that the ability to sign a bank loan doesn't make one an experienced and safe boater. Signing a bank note on a new boat shouldn't qualify anyone to operate a watercraft. Not being one for more government intrusion, I would submit that some form of mandatory education and licensing would go a long way towards reducing this type of accident and general unsafe foolishness on the water.

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4 replies
davandsher July 06 2014 at 7:09 PM

Boating at night would be fun if it weren't for the idiots that drink too much.

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supermolar July 06 2014 at 4:20 PM

another recipe for disaster-boats and alcohol

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2 replies
ljhanaway supermolar July 06 2014 at 4:57 PM

The article says nothing about drinking. The real recipe for disaster is allowing all these boats to head in the same direction at the conclusion of an event. It would be like everyone trying to exit a stadium parking lot at the same time, all trying to beat the others to the exit.

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3 replies
bartonlyle supermolar July 06 2014 at 5:40 PM

The article doesn't have to mention alcohol; it is highly unlikely that sobriety was involved ... at least in one boat.

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Richard July 06 2014 at 5:50 PM

People have to get e drivers license to drive a car. Make it mandatory to drive a boat also. Common sense has gone out the window.

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3 replies
Elizabeth July 06 2014 at 5:25 PM

It is difficult to file charges against people who are deceased.

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1 reply
Happypoolprune Elizabeth July 06 2014 at 8:49 PM

What if the boat that was hit didn't have running lights on it - wouldn't they also be culpable?

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2 replies
Elizabeth Happypoolprune July 06 2014 at 8:55 PM

With insurance companies, everyone is at fault. They base this on the degree of fault. I was a passenger in a very bad accident - the other driver was speeding, on the wrong side of the road and driving on a suspended license. The driver of the vehicle I was in was held to be 10% at fault because had we not been there, the idiot would not have hit us.

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BARRY AND KATHY Happypoolprune July 06 2014 at 10:03 PM

Why because the boat that hit them couldn't see them well enough to take BETTER aim.
I'm going to go with a crime of CO mission instead of one of O mission.

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Mike July 06 2014 at 5:17 PM

Thanks, Darwin.

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brad July 06 2014 at 6:33 PM

I no longer take my boat out for the 4th.Mainly because it can be so crowded and people are drunk trying to get back to port as fast as possible. I have seen some scary stuff out there.

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2 replies
honeyrose3332 brad July 07 2014 at 12:32 AM

Reading stuff like this makes me (1) Appreciate my animals more (2) Makes me glad I didn't bring children into this world.

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Sherry brad July 07 2014 at 8:04 AM

Columbus Day in Miami is even worse!

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brknspiritrider July 06 2014 at 8:28 PM

It's time for the boating industry to be accountable start making boating safer by making everyone take boating safety courses and license all captains

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4 replies
Ronnie orders July 07 2014 at 10:17 AM

Poor kids ...just wanting to enjoy life a little .....

I've done the boat thing for the Fireworks at night 20 years ago...

....Never again ...

.day or night I don't bring my family on the water at any holiday weekend....twice the amount of non experienced boaters .....

Never ever drive fast at night ..period

..you can not see if there is debris in the water fast enough to compensate , plus if there is another boat with no lights on ..you won't be able to see till it's to late .....

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bartonlyle July 07 2014 at 10:28 AM

As a surgeon I've patched up a lot of boating casualties from Lake Michigan and Lake Geneva. In EVERY instance alcohol was involved.

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