After two deaths and a rash of serious injuries just in the past year -- including DJ Laz's headline-grabbing incident when a man was chopped to death by the DJ's boat propeller -- the Key Biscayne Village Council has moved to ban motorboats from the offshore sandbar known as the Mashta Flats.
"It just gets worse and worse," council member Jim Taintor told Riptide. "And now it is completely out of control."
On Tuesday the council's motion to ban motorboats from the 12 acres of the flats controlled by Key Biscayne passed a second reading, and on Wednesday council members and police chief Charles Press pleaded with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officials in Naples for additional help.
The Mashta Flats, long a popular destination for families, has in recent years also emerged as one of South Florida's top spots for offshore boat partying. Last September a Plantation man was killed in a diving accident at the site, and at a Memorial Day party 23-year-old Ernesto Hernandez was killed by the running propeller of a boat operated by Lazaro Mendez, better known as radio personality DJ Laz. Mendez's boat had gotten stuck in the sand; Hernandez was trying to help push the boat and was killed when Mendez flipped on the propeller.
"That's crazy, with the engines going," said Carlos Silva, a lawyer representing the Hernandez family. "He sucked my client under with the engines and killed him."
The 12 acres controlled by Key Biscayne represent only roughly 20 percent of the Mashta Flats area, with the remainder falling under state jurisdiction. Even after passing the resolution, the village still needs state approval before boats can be banned from the 12 acres.
Key Biscayne is also rallying FWC officials for a solution that would encompass the entire Mashta Flats area, which officials say under current circumstances is impossible to effectively patrol.
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"It's really become like the Wild Wild West," Taintor said. "As we see it we have no other choice but to try to exclude motorboats from the flat."