A Miami-Dade kayaker got swamped by a passing powerboat while fishing off the Indian Key Bridge over the weekend, causing him to lose his car keys and wallet in the water.
Then he says he got hosed by a tow truck driver who impounded the car after unlocking it because he takes only cash.
Mario Morales, a 50-year-old physics teacher at South Dade High School in Homestead and a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, also lost his phone when his kayak overturned from a passing boat’s wake around 8:30 a.m. Sunday.
The operator of that vessel did not stop to help Morales despite the strong four- to five-knot current moving under the bridge, said Officer Robert Dube, Keys spokesman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
A group of fishermen under the bridge saw Morales clinging to his anchored kayak and called 911. Fish and Wildlife officers Jason Rafter and John Conlin arrived by boat and rescued Morales from the water.
A tow truck operator was called and opened Morales’ locked Ford Escape SUV. The charge — $345. But Morales had two problems. One, his wallet was at the bottom of the water. Two, the tow truck driver said he only takes cash.
Not only did Morales lose his wallet, he never carries that much money on him, he said. Basically, he had no way to pay.
But rather than bill Morales or accept a check, the tow operator seized the vehicle and drove it to an impound lot in Marathon.
If not for the generosity of the Fish and Wildlife officers, Morales would have been stranded; Rafter and Conlin drove Morales more than 50 miles to his Homestead home.
The officers “were great,” Morales said. “They did a really wonderful job. The officers drove me all the way to Homestead even though they live in Key Largo. They went out of their way to help me.”
Getting his car out of the impound lot cost Morales another $75 for a combined kayak-trip cost of $420 — not to mention a trip from Homestead to Marathon to get his SUV. A friend drove him.
Morales and Dube were not clear on the name of the tow truck company.
The Fish and Wildlife agency asks anyone with information about the boat that caused Morales’ kayak to capsize, or who saw the incident, to call (305) 289-2320.