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Coast Guard sets New Year’s Eve speed limit on Biscayne Bay

The Coast Guard is implementing a temporary speed zone in Florida’s Biscayne Bay on New Year’s Eve for the first time ever, a response to a three-boat crash that killed four people on July 4.

The speed zone slows boaters on the bay to a maximum of 15 knots between the Julia Tuttle Causeway all the way south of Deering Bay Marina.

Any boat caught going faster than 15 knots could be boarded by law enforcement and be cited, according to Miami’s CBS affiliate.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local police and fire agencies also will be out in force on New Year’s Eve, stepping up security.

A three-boat crash on July 4 in Biscayne Bay killed four people and sent a dozen to area hospitals after a fireworks display in a scene that rescuers called “as chaotic as chaotic could be.”

It started when a 2003 32-foot Contender center console careened into the Hanono family’s boat — a 2005 36-foot Carrera center console — spun out of control and hit a third boat.

The Miami-Dade Firefighters Union subsequently called the response to the collision inadequate, blaming budget cuts for sidelining fireboats in 2011.

“Arrogance, ignorance and professional jealousies all need to be put to the side. We need to get these boats back in service. So when this happens again tomorrow another father is not standing here like I am,” Jack Garcia, whose son Andrew died in the crash, told CBS Miami.

Now Garcia is telling local news outlets that after 33 years manning a Miami-Dade County fireboat, he will stay on dry land on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s in my blood. It was in my son’s blood. I brought him up, he was on the water with me since before he could walk,” Garcia told CBS4 of his late son. “I wouldn’t go out on the water that day.”

“It’s almost like the derby day. As soon as the show’s over, you have hundreds of boats, all going in different directions. I can’t stress how dangerous it is,” Garcia said.

Garcia said the increased regulation and patrols are a step in the right direction, but he said one of the best ways to stay safe is to boat with an experienced operator and be patient.

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