On June 17, six days later, the Key Biscayne village council unanimously approved the second reading of the ordinance, cementing the village's initiative to block off the 12 acres. But the effort was essentially symbolic: The other 48 acres of the area known as the Mashta Flats would be unaffected because they didn't fall under Key Biscayne's jurisdiction, and the village would still need state ratification to block off its part.

Key Biscayne petitioned the state for help with the ban and enforcement, but three weeks later, on the eve of July 4, village police were again staring at a huge water party without many resources to control it.

"There will be enforcement out there," Key Biscayne Police Lt. Jason Younes said the evening of July 3. "But nothing special or anything out of the ordinary."


Lifeguard Osmany "Ozzie" Castellanos (top) was killed after falling off a boat in July 2007; he had spent the day partying with friends at Elliott Key.
Photo courtesy of Isabel Castellanos
Lifeguard Osmany "Ozzie" Castellanos (top) was killed after falling off a boat in July 2007; he had spent the day partying with friends at Elliott Key.
Lauren Alba's hand was mangled in February when it was sucked into a propeller at Nixon sandbar.
Courtesy of Carlos Silva
Lauren Alba's hand was mangled in February when it was sucked into a propeller at Nixon sandbar.

The Monday after the bloody Fourth of July crash, Craig Karpiak looked like hell. It was just after noon when the middle-aged man with the calm air of a pastor walked out of his family's simple ranch house in a neat Palmetto Bay neighborhood. The cars of friends and ­relatives filled the semicircular driveway, and Karpiak wore shorts and a white baseball cap over his roundish, weather-worn face. His deep-set eyes were red with emotion, and when he spoke, his voice was low and soft and unbearably sad.

"Nothing matters except she's gone," he said. "That's my daughter. That's all I can really come to terms with right now."

Three days earlier, 24-year-old Kelsie Karpiak had been asleep on her family's couch when she was awakened by a phone call from Catherine Payan, Kelsie's mother Rosanna would later tell the Miami Herald. Catherine was Kelsie's best friend from Miami Palmetto Senior High, where the golden-blond Kelsie had been a cheerleader before heading off to the University of North Florida. Catherine, a pretty 24-year-old with thick black hair, invited Kelsie to spend the holiday on a boat. Kelsie agreed.

The pair and several other friends, along with Kelsie's twin brother Kevin and older brother CJ, in town visiting from Chicago, hung out on the sandbar. "Nooow I'm home," CJ Karpiak posted on Facebook in the early afternoon, tagging Nixon beach with a smiley face. Also tagged in the post were Kevin and Catherine.

In the evening, the group, like scores of others, watched the fireworks from the boat in the bay. Afterward, five of the friends — Kelsie, Catherine, Victoria "Tori" Dempsey, Samantha Rolph, and Andrew Garcia, who was driving his father Jack's 32-foot Contender — were ready to head back to shore, where they planned to eat at Monty's in Coconut Grove.

Eight people aboard a 36-foot Carrera had also celebrated the holiday on the water. After visiting Elliott Key, the extended Hanono family — Heather, Elias, Lynda, Shawn, Emma, and Ella Hanono, as well as Jason Soleimani and Dayanara Arias — spent time swimming near Bayfront Park. At sunset, 22-year-old Heather kissed Jason, a law student from Long Island and her soon-to-be fiancé, Local 10 reported. Despite having two young children on board — 5-year-old Emma and 2-year-old Ella — the group wasn't in a hurry to get back to Dinner Key after the fireworks. Instead they cruised around, lapping up the last moments of a long summer day on the bay.

Around 10:35, Heather Hanono saw what must have been a white blur in the darkness. It was the Contender coming straight at them. She screamed, and a few seconds later, the 32-footer slammed directly into the starboard side of the family's boat, instantly ripping apart its hull. Andrew, Tori, and Samantha were thrown into the dark water; Kelsie and Catherine remained on the boat but were knocked unconscious. With no one at the wheel, the Contender began spinning in circles, eventually slamming into the left side of a third boat, a Boston Whaler carrying nine.

"Pon pon pon pon pon," came the initial Coast Guard call, at 10:37. "Report of a vessel collision with injuries in the vicinity of Key Biscayne. All vessels are requested to keep a sharp lookout."

The first on the scene was a sailboat. With the Contender still circling and panic beginning to unfold, Fritzie Simmons, a nurse, saw the gaping hole in the Carrera and jumped on board. She tried to treat Jason and felt a light pulse. A marine tow vehicle noticed the circling Contender and the two bodies on board; after maneuvering his boat next to it, a crew member leaped aboard and brought the vessel under control.

By the time authorities arrived minutes later, Jason was dead. Catherine and Kelsie were rushed to shore and then to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where Kelsie was pronounced dead. The bodies of Andrew and Tori were recovered the next day. Catherine, as of last week, was in a coma at Ryder Trauma Center. Rolph sustained serious head injuries and was taken to Kendall Regional Medical Center.

The following Tuesday, Pino, the FWC spokesman, confirmed that evidence of alcohol consumption had been found on the Contender, but he declined to provide specifics. The incident is being treated as a homicide investigation, with a clearer picture of events — and the reason for the crash — not likely to emerge for weeks.

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5 comments
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marionwlee

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flynlawr
flynlawr

Danielle Press' tragic injury occurred on September 14, 2013 when she jumped off a boat near Key Biscayne and was struck by the prop. The Columbus Day Regatta was held on October 11 and 12 and does not go anywhere near either Key Biscayne or Elliott Key. I fail to see the connection with her injuries and the power boat craziness at Elliott Key on Columbus Day Weekend and the Columbus Day Regatta. Better fact checking, please!

Jay Wood

Member, Columbus Day Regatta Committee

Shawn Weaver
Shawn Weaver

Maybe its time to focus on people and worry less about turtles

 
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