Every Fourth of July, boaters race back to marinas across Miami-Dade after the firework shows — creating the perfect storm for boating accidents.
But this year was different.
The Coast Guard enacted a 15-knot slow-speed zone on Saturday evening and into early Sunday morning from Black Point Marina to the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The speed limit — which was put into effect as a result of a deadly accident last July 4th — seems to have worked, as there were no major boating crashes reported Saturday night.
“I believe our campaign had a tremendous effect,” Key Biscayne Police Chief Charles Press said. “This shows that education alongside very strict enforcement creates a safer environment.”
While there were no major boating accidents in Miami-Dade on July 4, there were several other incidents surrounding the holiday in Miami-Dade and Broward, including firework mishaps, car accidents and boat rescues. In Broward, there was one boat accident Saturday that sent a teenager to the hospital with serious injuries after he drove his boat into a seawall.
“We have no idea why he ended up hitting the seawall,” Fort Lauderdale Fire Department Deputy Chief Timothy Heiser said.
Also in Broward, a 5-year-old girl was taken to Broward Health Medical Center on Saturday after being injured by fireworks. Despite yearly warnings, a 24-year-old Margate man lost his hand just before midnight Saturday while setting off fireworks in Dania Beach.
Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said Sunday that the man“blew off most of his right hand,” up to his elbow.
“He is very lucky he wasn’t killed,” Jachles said. “It’s very tragic this man lost his hand. All we can do is hope common sense prevails.”
New York Giants player Jason Pierre-Paul also injured his hand in a fireworks accident in South Florida, multiple media outlets reported. The extent of the injury was unknown.
Pierre-Paul, a Deerfield Beach native, had posted two videos to his Instagram account Saturday night next to a U-Haul van, reportedly filled with fireworks.
In addition to the firework mishaps, there was single-car crash in Broward that left one man dead early Saturday morning.
Edgar Cerqueira, 28, lost control of his car at the intersection of Davie Road and Peters Road. His car hit a guardrail, spun and continued sideways, then hit a tree. Cerqueira was ejected from his car and was pronounced dead on the scene. No other cars were involved in the accident.
Meanwhile, in Miami-Dade, marine patrols from across the county banded together to try to prevent a repeat of last year when three boats collided, killing four people.
The Coast Guard and other marine police also aggressively enforced other boating rules. Citations were passed out to boaters who did not have proper navigation lights, and arrests were made for boating under the influence.
“The amount of presence definitely helped with people following those laws that were put in place for this weekend,” Miami Fire-Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said.
Stricter rules were enforced this year after last year’s fatal three-boat crash near Dinner Key Marina, which killed four people.
“We’re very happy that the Fourth of July came and went without a significant injury or death in the boating community,” said Jorge Pino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Besides a capsized boat — with all three people on board rescued — and a jet ski accident Sunday that caused minor injuries, rescuers said the holiday was smooth sailing.
“If we continue everything we are doing we can change the game for South Florida,” Key Biscayne’s Press said. “It's just like anything else. It's going to take time and a lot of effort.”