Man dies after personal watercraft hits boat in Biscayne Bay

09/03/2012 5:00 AM

09/03/2012 7:35 PM

Investigators with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are examining evidence from a deadly boating accident in Biscayne Bay.

So far, investigators believe the 27-year-old man who died after his personal watercraft collided with a boat was travelling fast in a slow-speed area and wasn’t supposed to drive a personal watercraft at all at night, said Jorge Pino, spokesman with the agency.

Carlos Alberto Fernandez was riding a Yamaha personal watercraft on the bay when the fatal accident occurred. His friend, Jose Luis Moreno, was on another watercraft and desperately tried to save him and call for help.

Fernandez had a wife and children, Pino said.

Investigators were looking into how fast he was travelling and why the two men were on the water at night. Only Fernandez struck the other boat, a 22-foot vessel with a family on board, headed to port.

“It’s hard enough to spot a vessel with navigational lights and proper safety equipment,” Pino said. “Now you have a black personal watercraft at night at a high rate of speed. It’s just a recipe for disaster.”

Florida has a longstanding rule that personal watercraft can only operate during daylight, starting half an hour before sunrise and half an hour after sunset.

Pino said it’s important for boaters and water enthusiasts to follow safety rules. Florida, which has the most registered vessels in the country, reported 742 boating accidents in 2011. Of those, 22 percent involved personal watercraft.

The latest crash on Biscayne Bay happened after 10 p.m. Sunday. A Sea Tow operator headed to Pelican Harbor saw commotion in the water just north of the Venetian Causeway, Fire-Rescue spokesman Ignatius Carroll said.

“When I was heading back to base, his friend was waving to me. ‘Help me, help me! My friend is dying,’” operator Fernando Sordo told a videographer at the scene. “I pretty much went over there to rescue both of them.”

The Sea Tow operator pulled up and found a man in the water, not breathing. It looked like the man had been riding a personal watercraft that collided with the boat carrying a family, Carroll said.

The Sea Tow operator pulled the injured man onto his boat and brought him to the Sea Isle Marina and Yachting Center alongside the causeway bridge. Several people tried to help with CPR until Fire-Rescue arrived.

“Unfortunately, it was a sad scene,” said Ryan Wallach, a professional boater, told a videographer on scene that he rendered CPR, giving chest compressions and breathing until first responders came.

But it was too late.

Fernandez was pronounced dead on the scene, Carroll said.

No one on the boat was hurt. But the family -- a father, mother, two young daughters and an 11-year-old boy -- were in shock.

“They were not injured, but you can imagine just how traumatic and horrific of an accident they witnessed here,” Carroll said.

It’ wasn’t clear if alcohol was involved.

Videographer Raul Torres contributed to this report.

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