DJ Laz and the Dinner Key Boating Disaster: Too Many Watery Deaths

DJ Laz and the Dinner Key Boating Disaster: Too Many Watery Deaths

By 2 p.m. on the Fourth of July, the bacchanal at Nixon sandbar just off Key Biscayne is in full swing. A few hundred feet from the sprawling waterfront mansions of Harbor Drive, dozens of women in bikinis gyrate atop boats, strangers with supersoakers generously squirt rum into one another's mouths, and a half-dozen different house beats blare simultaneously from loudspeakers.

Over five years, alcohol was listed as a contributing factor in 58 deaths and 146 injuries in Florida.

In the waist-deep water in front of the loudest boats, a group of nine young women gathers for a picture. Holding mugs and beer cans, they wrap arms around sun-kissed shoulders while laughing and squealing for the camera.

"You have fun — that's all you do!" exclaims Jessie, a 20-something with bright-pink lipstick, hot-yellow nail polish, and generous curves spilling out of her black top.

Lifeguard Osmany "Ozzie" Castellanos 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 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.

Location Info

Map

Dinner Key Marina

3400 Pan American Drive
Coconut Grove, FL 33133

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Coconut Grove

Wading through the water a few feet away, a stocky, middle-aged man holds a red plastic cup in his left hand. He has a clipped brown goatee and prominent sideburns. He's shirtless but wears a black bandanna that says "Bad Dog" — a kind of Hell's Angel at the beach. The Angel, who later says his name is Juan, flashes a big grin and grabs a handful of Jessie's right breast. Then he immediately releases it and does the same to her left, as if shaking hands. She smiles.

Next, without hesitation, Juan moves on to another young woman nearby, also voluptuous. She's wearing a zebra-printed top. This time he squeezes the left first and then moves to the right. She isn't fazed either.

"Hey, I'm gifted!" Juan exclaims. "All girls like me to grab their tits. Watch this!"

He drifts several feet to his right, eager to prove his talent once again. Two other young women are locked in a close embrace and don't notice him approaching. Again Juan reaches with his right hand and grabs a left breast, then a right. Startled, the woman turns and lets out a shriek. She smiles and playfully grabs Juan's arm. Thirty seconds later, she's dancing, waving her arms back and forth above her head to the pulsing beat.

"Do you guys want to do the beer funnel?" Jessie shouts above the music.

Less than nine hours later, the holiday fun transforms into a marine hellscape. After spending the day at the sandbar, a 32-foot powerboat with five 20-somethings on board zips toward Dinner Key through the inky night. It's about 10:35, and suddenly the boat smashes into a 36-footer carrying a family of eight, spins out of control, and careens into a third vessel, a Boston Whaler. Blood from a half-dozen bodies pours into the water. Rescue workers pull out survivors and search for bodies floating in the ocean like kids' toys in a bathtub.

One week later, authorities had yet to determine the reason for the crash, but the devastation was clear. Four were dead and three critically injured, including one girl who remained in a coma. A half-dozen families were shattered.

"I've been doing law enforcement for 25 years," says Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spokesman Jorge Pino. "I've never seen anything like that."

The July 4 crash instantly became the highest-profile — and deadliest — boating tragedy in recent local memory. But in South Florida, where a culture of hedonism routinely coincides with famously lax boating regulations, it wasn't the first. The area's second most notorious tragedy occurred just two months earlier, when a well-known local DJ, whose boat was stuck in the sand after a day of partying, gunned his motor and a 23-year-old security guard was killed by the whirling propellers.

The investigations into both incidents are still open. So far no one has been charged.

"I've been out in every major event... I know what it's like," says Key Biscayne Police Chief Charles Press, whose own daughter nearly bled to death after being struck by a propeller at the sandbar last year. "This is legitimate. It's real. It's concerning. It's not going away."


With nearly 900,000 registered boats, Florida ranks as America's most popular place for boating — and also its deadliest. Last year alone, 62 people died in boating accidents in the state, the highest number in the nation. Over the past five years, 327 have died, giving Florida the highest fatality rate among large states.

Nearly two-thirds of the operators involved in Florida fatalities last year had no formal marine safety training. In the Sunshine State, where the powerful boating industry has long had a hold on legislation, there's no legal minimum age requirement to operate a boat. And for anyone born before 1988, no courses are required to legally pilot almost any recreational watercraft.

"It's a huge problem," Carlos Silva, a Coconut Grove attorney, says of Florida's lax regulation. "So many people are dying... The safety rules suck."

The pervasive culture of alcohol doesn't help, either. Though the same drinking-limit regulations apply in boats and cars, the reality is that laws are rarely enforced on the water, where multiple agencies often share jurisdiction and access is frequently difficult. In 2011, the most recent year for which state statistics are available, more than 55,000 DUI tickets were issued for Florida's 14 million registered land vehicles. On the water, where drinking is exceedingly common, only 237 citations were given in 2013 by the FWC, the agency that doles out the majority of BUIs — less than half of 1 percent of the number given on land.

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61 comments
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44lite
44lite

Boating requirements need to have bigger running lights for nightime. City of Miami should light up more markers in the channels so boaters can see better. instead of wasting the money on 

patrolling the sandbar which is a waste of tax dollars!

joholso95
joholso95

Liquor sponsored water parties coupled with self absorbed assholes with no sense of responsibility and an unforgiving ocean? What the hell do you expect? Sorry if I don't lose any sleep over this first world problem.

bill87
bill87

http://www.boatingaccidents.org/Boating-Accidents-Statistics.html

Roughly 5,000 boating accidents are counted by the Coast Guard each year. These accidents cause around 750 deaths, 3,500 injuries, and around $36 million in damages to property. The most common recreational boat types involved in accidents are open motorboats (46%), personal watercraft like jet skis (22%), and cabin motorboats (14%).


While a boating accident can happen in any type of vessel, boating accidents statistics indicate that certain types of boats are more likely to be involved in accidents. About 58% of fatal boating accidents occurred in open motorboats, while canoes and kayaks were involved in 19%. Cabin motorboats were much safer, with only 10% of fatal accidents occurring in thistype of vessel. Personal watercraft like Jet skis were involved in 7% of fatal accidents, but a whopping 30% of all accidents that cause injuries. Finally, only 7% of fatal accidents happened in rowboats. 

bill87
bill87

Why aren't jet skis mentioned in this article?

Mark Leavitt
Mark Leavitt

I believe you require a FL Boating Safety Education course and ID Card and have to be 14 or older. But in reality, that's a joke too just like boating licenses (here in CT)-- courses are not experience, just basic information-- you have to learn your way through an experienced boater just like drivers training etc. -- in the end the sea is teacher of the truth and unfortunately, these lost souls found out the hard way.

Rosalie Cortez
Rosalie Cortez

Florida needs to hurry up and fall off into the ocean...

Alberto Alfonso
Alberto Alfonso

The bottom line is simple. The sea - no matter how close to shore is unforgiving. Couple that with the human factor and you have a recipe for disaster as we have seen lately. While at sea you need to bring your "A" game. It's unfortunate that such a wonderful pass time has brought so much tragedy as of late. Be safe. Be courteous. Be vigilant.

louisperez222
louisperez222

How would you Boaters out there feel about a White STROBE LIGHT added to the Navigation Lights- similar to airplane required lighting?

I use it on my boat at night regardless of regulations. Similar to what people do when driving with flashers in the rain.

It's incredible how hard it is to discern a boat from a lighted coastline.

I think that would help save lives!

Best regards, Louis

Daniel Bras
Daniel Bras

Only because of the strong boating lobby do these deaths occur. In most other countries there's no way that one can rent a boat without learning first how to use one and getting a specific boating license. A boat is not a car. It does not stop when you hit the breaks, it does not turn immediately when you turn the wheel. And by the way, the back of the boat has a killer propeller, not an exhaust pipe. It's ridiculous that peoples lives seem to be less important than the boating industry's revenues.

Bobby Dazzler
Bobby Dazzler

drunk boating is no safer than drunk driving and america has an obsession with both

Phil Ramirez
Phil Ramirez

the combination of boats, alcohol, drugs and that local "Tocame La Pinga" attitude... Not good! I'd ban night boating altogether, and those who break the law, i'll have you executed and feed you to the sharks on the spot.

Reed van Brunschot
Reed van Brunschot

The combination of boats and water, whether fueled by alcohol or not, can all be so potentially and extremely dangerous. Especially so,if you do not know some basic seafaring rules. Why is it not being regulated more?! Also, shame on every boater who does not take that important responsibility upon themselves to learn how to properly boat. Just because you have money and keys to start a propeller engine does not make you a sailor, or a hot shot, or whatever, it makes you a douche. And at worse, a stupidly lethal douche.

tjjmc1212
tjjmc1212

Let them continue to bury their dead, more room for the smart sober boaters.

Let's face it shall we, it's an out of control, stupid and cultural behavioral thing, there's no doubt about it. There is no stopping them either, they and their ilk are out there every day. Require boating licenses and mandatory insurance to weed out the weak minded.

clarissabellamia
clarissabellamia

How old is the reporter- 15? What was the reason for recounting that ridiculous breast grabbing scenario?? It served absolutely no purpose to this report, which is truly a reckless and tragic story that happens way too often here in Florida......... Careless drinking and inadequate regulating should be the only focus.

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

Regulate, Regulate, Regulate.


Enough!


We have 1000's of boaters on the water every day and the number of accidents is remarkibly low.

We have strict licensing and traffic laws and you take your life in your own hands every day on the road.

900,000 boats and only 62 deaths?   That is incredibly low.  Celebrate how without stupid laws, regulations and the TAXES the generate that Boating is so safe.

Most of the cases mentioned involved stupid people doing stupid things to themselves and you can't regulate stupid.


Think for once in your entitled lives will ya?


Matthew A. Solari
Matthew A. Solari

We're on a damn peninsula lol of course we'd have the highest fatalities just by virtue of having so many boats. Combine that with all the douche bags, smugglers, and tourists then you should be surprised we haven't had over 100 a year.

Reinerio Ray Ray Valdes
Reinerio Ray Ray Valdes

My video was talked about in this article on page 3.."To illustrate the problem,..." i have been boating for many years and have never had a problem out on the water .. accidents happen and unfortunately people get hurt /pass away .. but i dont see anywhere in my videos where it shows recklessness ..

John C. Tucker
John C. Tucker

Sad and could be avoided if alcohol consumption was not a factor in "most" of these boating accidents. :(

Patricia L Watt
Patricia L Watt

kick the tires and light the fires, That is who is operating boats on the crowded waterways. Problem, there is to many of them.

Anastasia Biltmore
Anastasia Biltmore

When boating, use the old saying "two is one, one is none." You need two kinds of lights- the ones on the boat and a hand-held. You need a second battery for your handheld VHF. You might even want to invest in an E-PIRB. You need flares and know how to deploy them. If these boaters had any of these things, they would have been 1)seen and avoided 2)picked up. As a captain, you are responsible for EVERYONE on your boat and their safety in an emergency situation such as getting stuck dead in the water. It is unfortunate that this happened because it was avoidable. A flashlight could have saved these people's lives.

Adam Lefcourt
Adam Lefcourt

Unfortunately this accident is a combination of the most unlikely events to happen all at the same time, the boat struck was dead in the water and had zero lights to identify it's location and the vessel that was driven by a very capable captain was one of the young men to lose his life with his dear friends...

Sandra Castillo Perez
Sandra Castillo Perez

The very sad fact is that there are very well educated licenced Captains out there and inocent adults trying to give beautiful oceanic experiences to their children then come along these inexperienced young "kids" who just want to drink and party , then drive. Boaters too should have a designated drivers. I also agree, night time boating is a no no.

Marlen Alba
Marlen Alba

some folks on boats act like some folks on sports cars...something like "compensating"...

Pablo Pabz Garcia Jr
Pablo Pabz Garcia Jr

not only drinking, there are countless accidents of people that just dont know much about boats and how they work

Marlen Alba
Marlen Alba

Drinking and stupidity...a terrible combination...tougher boating regulations are needed.

Pablo Pabz Garcia Jr
Pablo Pabz Garcia Jr

well if we made peeps take courses or get some sort of license to drive a boat maybe we wouldnt have that many accidents

Sayad Khan
Sayad Khan

What do you expect from a state with people who can't drive for shit? It's going to be the exact same stupidity, on the water.

Joseph Mazon
Joseph Mazon

And we will wring our hands, and mourn the dead, and then do nothing. In another week this won't even BE a story. Are we clear?

Michael del Vice
Michael del Vice

Boating is dangerous....boating at night is freekin stupid. Those giant steel pillings are very very dark, there's always a few missing reflectors. Stay away from night boating.

James Russell
James Russell

Hush before they try and take away our boats too! Lol

carol
carol

why is this article dated Thursday, Jul 17 2014? 

today is Tuesday, Jul 15....

ARE WE TRAVELING THROUGH TIME?!

Andres Leon
Andres Leon

Liberal logic, they should ban boats. These deadly assault boats should be banned.

Betty Valdes Gonzalez
Betty Valdes Gonzalez

You can have fun but at the same time drive safely and even in parts of the ocean that you see people fishing or swimming and it doesn't say to slow down, have some courtesy and slow down!!! Use your common sense and SLOW DOWN!!

James G. Camp
James G. Camp

With the channels marked as they are and as fast as these boats go, the rules are the same stay to your right (starboard). What little boating I've done, it's not hard to see that some folks have no clue of where the channel is and that traffic flow is no different than driving their cars on a street. Only the street is obviously marked as a path and the open water isn't.

Alex Anico
Alex Anico

How many died in traffic accidents? Seriously law of averages. Wake up from your utopia.

Abby Drake
Abby Drake

The statistics for injuries are highest here because of the higher number or boats.

miamitrev2
miamitrev2 topcommenter

Actually its usually drunk morons who cause these incidents, not a lack of regulations.

You cant fix stupid

louisperez222
louisperez222

Why not just place a curfew on the public and outlaw alcohol

louisperez222
louisperez222

Stupid mind less idiot. Can't you see innocent people are in danger

miamitrev2
miamitrev2 topcommenter

these courses would some how magically prevent people from being drunk and/or wreckless?

miamitrev2
miamitrev2 topcommenter

or you could teach your family and friends some boating safety.  ((always have a lookout, dont speed in congested areas etc etc etc))  Everyone can learn from or at least pause to reflect on what occcured

miamitrev2
miamitrev2 topcommenter

I say they take it a step further and ban Biscayne Bay

miamitrev2
miamitrev2 topcommenter

Yep and we have people thinking "You know what we REALLY need, more laws....more laws will fix everything"

 
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