Alcohol Confirmed in Dinner Key Boat Crash; Questions Abound
Victoria Dempsey, Andrew Garcia, and Kelsie Karpiak
Around noon on Monday, several cars belonging to relatives and friends were lined up outside a grieving family's suburban Palmetto Bay home, and Craig Karpiak was still coming to grips with a bleak new reality.
"Nothing matters except she's gone," a somber Karpiak said. "That's my daughter."
More than three days after South Florida's deadliest boating crash killed Karpiak's daughter Kelsie and three others, details of the incident remain scarce, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino told Riptide Monday evening. "Our investigators are still trying to piece all the evidence together and come up with a clearer picture."
Around 10:40 Friday night, a boat operated by Andrew Garcia, 23, slammed into another vessel a couple of miles off Dinner Key. Garcia and Victoria Dempsey, a passenger, were thrown overboard; with no one left operating the first boat, a 2003 32-foot Contender, it continued on and struck a third vessel.
Pino confirmed to Riptide that evidence of alcohol consumption was found on the boat operated by Garcia, although he said it was yet to be determined whether the driver was intoxicated. Pino also declined to give more specifics of what evidence was found.
"I could tell you that there was evidence of alcohol on the striking vessel," he said. "You can think what you want to think."
One man from the second boat, 23-year-old Jason Soleimani, was killed instantly from the impact of the crash. Karpiak and the other two passengers from the first boat -- Karpiak's friends Catherine Payan and Samantha Rolth -- were rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital after a commercial marine tow crew member was able to jump aboard and take control of the vessel, which had been circling out of control. Karpiak was pronounced dead on arrival. The bodies of Garcia and Dempsey were recovered from the water the next day, and Payan remains in critical condition, as does a passenger from the second boat, 39-year-old Dayanara Arias. No one on the third boat was seriously injured.
All three boats were returning to shore after spending the Fourth of July on the water and watching the nighttime fireworks. Aboard the two boats that were struck were families and children, including a 5-year-old and 2-year-old, neither of whom were injured.
Outside his home Monday, a grieving Craig Karpiak described his daughter as an extremely loved, funny, and sweet young woman who ran her mother's dance company and was excited about the future.
"Not a mean bone in her body," the father said, his voice low and soft. "The sweetest little girl you'd ever meet."
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