After the bodies had been recovered and while families were still planning funerals, serious questions about the rescue operation also surfaced. By 2 a.m., with the bodies of Andrew and Tori still missing, the Miami Fire Department called off its search for the night, as did most other agencies, CBS 4 reported. Outraged that the rescue operation had effectively been put on hold, Andrew's dad Jack, a recently retired 30-year Miami-Dade County firefighter, took the search into his own hands, boarding a boat with Tori's father and two off-duty firemen.

"I got there, and my boy and the other girl were still out there," Jack Garcia told CBS 4. "I know our guys weren't there, there was no effective search going on, and I didn't want to wait two or three days for my son's body to float up."

Miami-Dade's fireboat program had been cut three years ago, so the county fire department had no boats on the water. Amid public heat over the lack of county rescue boats, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez publicly squabbled with the firefighters' union over funding and staffing issues, and Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Dave Downey admitted the rescue wasn't well organized. "One of my problems is there didn't seem to be a coordinated effort," he told CBS 4, "on our behalf or any of the other agencies."

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.

Around 7:30 the morning of July 5, Jack Garcia found Tori's corpse floating in the harbor, her body still warm. Her father was too distraught to identify her. Andrew's body wasn't pulled from the water until 3:30 that afternoon.

Now, with the shock and horror still reverberating, it's unclear whether the Fourth of July tragedy will have any impact on boating safety procedures or regulations. White, the Key Biscayne activist, isn't optimistic. "Honestly, I think that nothing is going to change," she says, "unless there is a concerted effort in Miami-Dade County to put an end to boating under the influence and start making waters safe."

The consequences of inaction may become apparent in three months, when the biggest boat party of the year kicks off on Columbus Day weekend. "Don't go to Elliott Key on Columbus Day weekend if peace and quiet is what you seek," Bob Janiskee writes in an article on the website National Parks Traveler. "Don't go there if it bothers you to see adult beverages consumed in prodigious quantities. Don't go there if you don't want to see bikini tops doffed for beads and beer."

Last November, Jack Garcia was featured in a CBS 4 segment about boating safety. Garcia had been assigned to one of the Miami-Dade fireboats that were retired due to budget cuts, and he angrily called the lack of resources a huge safety issue. "When people die on the water, nobody cares or nobody says anything," he said. "If somebody out there needs help, they're not going to get it, and they're gonna die."

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5 comments
marionwlee
marionwlee

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jerrybbenson

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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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