Florida Keys

Police divers on training mission find a sunken rental boat 30 feet below

The vessel was found in 30 feet of water. A commercial salvor will try to raise it.
The vessel was found in 30 feet of water. A commercial salvor will try to raise it. FWC

A rental boat that disappeared beneath the waves off Key Largo no longer is lost at sea.

During a training exercise on using side-scan sonar last week, Florida Keys enforcement officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s new dive team successfully found the 26-foot deck boat.

The rented boat “began to take on water and rolled over and sank near Molasses Reef,” said Officer Bobby Dube, an FWC spokesman. “Divers were able to positively identify and confirm that this was the vessel from the boating accident.”

All four people aboard the boat were picked up by a passing partyboat, the Sailor’s Choice from Key Largo. No one was injured, and a commercial salvor was contracted to raise the boat from waters 30 feet deep.

“It was determined that an unsecured aft hatch permitted water to leak in, which caused the catamaran-style hull deck boat to lose stability and roll over,” Dube said.

Instructors from Florida State University were showing FWC officers how to use side-scan sonar to find objects on the bottom. They were looking specifically for the lost deck boat. Once located, FWC Officers Chris Mattson and Andy Cox dove down to identify the craft.

The boat settled on sandy bottom in an area called Molasses Channel, apparently not causing harm to coral or seagrass, Dube said. Office Mike McKay is continuing the investigation into the sinking.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206