Skip to main content

VIDEO: Firefighters union criticizes Florida crash response

The Miami-Dade Firefighters Union is calling the response to a three-boat collision on July 4 that killed four people and injured eight more 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.

Garcia, a retired Miami-Dade firefighter, had been a vocal critic of the fireboats being taken out of service in the first place. Now he is calling for their reinstatement.

He explained why he and the father of Victoria (Tori) Dempsey felt the need to go out on their own boat to look for their missing children after they said other agencies stopped searching. Garcia and Victoria’s father found her in the water Friday night, telling Channel 7 News that her body was still warm.

“I know our guys weren’t there, there was no effective search going on, and I didn’t want to wait two or three days for my son’s body to float up because I’ve been involved in that before and I wanted to do everything possible to bring closure,”Garcia said on Monday.

There were reports that boat crews from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, which was the lead agency investigating the accident, suspended their search during the night. Only the Coast Guard, which had deployed one small boat, was still in Biscayne Bay, according to CBS.

As Garcia looked out on the water he knew exactly what he had to do. He went home and brought his own boat to the dock. Before sunrise he launched, along with two off duty Miami-Dade firefighters. Joining them on the boat was the father, brother and sister of the other missing boater, Tori Dempsey.

“I got there and my boy and the other girl were still out there,” Garcia said. “I know our guys weren’t there, there was no effective search going on, and I didn’t want to wait two or three days for my son’s body to float up.”

Garcia had been critical when negotiations failed to reinstate the fireboats last year.

“If somebody out there needs help, they’re not going to get it and they’re gonna die,”Garcia told CBS last year. “And it’s not going to be brought up and they are just going to say they would have died, anyway, or we don’t have that service.”

Miami Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey said that none of the other agencies—Coast Guard, city of Miami, or FWC— asked Miami-Dade for help other than sending the fire rescue helicopter to transport some of the wounded.Downey said no one at the county knew there were people still missing in the water until after 3 a.m. Saturday.

The union on Monday said the Coast Guard did not request Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s help until hours after the incident, but added that they couldn’t have properly responded without their fireboats. Union leaders argued that more could have been done to save the four who died if the county’s fireboat was operational.

Downey said it would cost the county about $2.5 million to put the fireboats back in service, but the fire department doesn’t have the money to do it.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez told CBS that the union had refused to negotiate with city officials, making it impossible to put the fireboats back in service.

“Unfortunately, the firefighters union blocked the restoring of the fireboats service,”the mayor said in a statement. “When we proposed that for efficiency and cost-saving measures, fire rescue personnel staffed at PortMiami be cross-utilized to operate the boats, the union refused, insisting that a unit solely dedicated to the fireboat be used instead.”

Related

FUTURE-ANGLERS

FAF Brings New Anglers into the Fold

The nonprofit organization will leverage Giving Tuesday on Nov. 29 to raise funds for its grassroots fishing and boating participation efforts.

1_NAOS.YACHTS.EXPANDS

Naos Yachts Plans New Offices

The San Francisco Bay area location will expand the dealer’s midcoast footprint and help grow its Groupe Beneteau, Lagoon, Neel, CNB Yachts, Four Winns and Wellcraft brands.

1_THANKSGIVING

Trade Only Today Returns Monday

The e-newsletter will not publish Thursday, Nov. 24, and Friday, Nov. 25, in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

CORRECT-CRAFT-ORPHANAGE

Correct Craft Gives Back

Employees spent a day serving at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home, impacting more than 500 kids in need.

1_GH.ELECTRIC.HOIST

GH Motion Launches All-Electric Lift

The GH70e mobile boat lift is powered by a modular solar/battery system and has a 65-ton capacity.

1_PULSE.PING

Dealers: Are You in Compliance?

A new FTC Safeguards Rule designed to protect consumers’ personal information goes into effect Dec. 9 — are you prepared?

1_NMMA-CANADA

NMMA Canada President Steps Down

NMMA Canada president Sara Anghel is leaving the recreational boating trade group after nearly 15 years of service.

1_DEALER.OUTLOOK

Ohio Ordered To Get Serious About Algae

Many are applauding a judge’s proposed consent decree that will serve as a roadmap to address western Lake Erie’s chronic algal blooms.