Responding to one of the worst accidents in memory on Biscayne Bay on the Fourth of July, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced a crackdown on drunken boaters during the Labor Day weekend on and around the bay.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Gimenez said the crackdown will involve federal, state and local law enforcement agencies: Miami-Dade marine police, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Coast Guard; and Key Biscayne, North Miami, Coral Gables and Bal Harbour police.
The crackdown will start on Sunday and target popular destinations where boaters raft up and party. Police will be looking for intoxicated boaters on and around the Nixon Beach sandbar off Key Biscayne, the Stiltsville flats and Elliott Key, said Charles Press, chief of the Key Biscayne Police Department and head of the Miami-Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police.
It is not illegal to drink and drive a boat in Florida, but it is illegal to operate one with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher and .02 or higher if the driver is under 21.
The Fourth of July accident was the worst ever on Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Shortly after the fireworks were over, a 32-foot Contender T-boned a 36-foot Carrera, throwing the Contender’s skipper overboard. The Contender spun out of control after the first impact and glanced off a third boat, a 35-foot Boston Whaler center console. Four people died and seven were injured. Twenty-two people were involved in the accident.
Investigators found evidence of alcohol aboard the Contender, but toxicology reports are still pending. There is still no evidence that the Contender’s skipper was impaired.
Florida, which has the largest number of registered boats in the nation at 870,749, also has the highest number of accidents (685 in 2013) and fatalities (51) of any state.