The waters off of Miami-Dade County proved deadly and dangerous on Sunday, killing one man, forcing three capsized boaters to swim to shore in the darkness and leaving a diver missing — all within a span of 12 hours.
The tragic weekend began Saturday night off of Miami Beach when a 23-foot boat with four friends onboard, capsized in rough, dark waters.
All onboard found themselves with no choice but to try to swim to shore.
At around midnight, the three survivors made it to 63rd Street and Collins Avenue and begged residents of oceanfront condominiums to help their friend who was still in water.
They said that the boat’s captain, Ramon Ulloa-Rodriguez, 48, was not wearing a lifejacket.
He had also suffered a severe propeller injury to his left leg and ankle.
The survivors said they had last seen Ulloa-Rodriguez hanging on to a blue and white cooler.
A massive search was launched.
A Coast Guard helicopter eventually found Ulloa-Rodriguez’s body inside the surf line at 59th Street and Collins Avenue.
His distraught friends and relatives had been waiting for good news on the shore.
Miami-Dade officials are still trying to determine whether Ulloa-Rodriguez’s death stemmed from drowning or his leg injury.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the deceased during this difficult time,” said Capt. Chris Scraba, Coast Guard Sector Miami commander, whose unit found the body.
It appears Ulloa-Rodriguez and his passengers had sailed out that evening in rough waters and that the boat may not have had enough lifejackets.
“It’s very important that people abide by the rules and regulations, which includes having life jackets readily accessible,” said Officer Jorge Pino, spokesman for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“If that would have been the case in this situation, the victim might have still been with us today.”
The tragedy also prompted the Coast Guard to warn boaters about the importance of equipping their boat with multiple forms of safety gear such as “life jackets, VHF-FM radios, distress signals and sound-producing devices.”
Hours after Ulloa-Rodriguez’s body was found Sunday, a 48-year-old male diver was reported missing around noon three miles off of Key Biscayne.
Coast Guard members combed the waters north to Haulover Beach searching for the diver, who had jumped off a dive boat without flippers.
In the strong currents, he quickly began drifting away.
Two other divers on the boat jumped into the water to try to help, but they began to struggle in the rough seas and the boat’s driver turned around to pick them up.
The search team for the missing diver included the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Miami-Dade Marine Patrol, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and Miami-Dade Air Rescue.
As of Sunday evening, the search for the diver, whose name has not been released, was still ongoing.