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Witness recounts scene at three-boat Florida crash

A nurse who tried in vain to save Jason Soleimani’s life following a three-boat Fourth of July crash in Florida said that if help had come sooner, the man’s life could have been spared.

The nurse was aboard a sailboat that was the first vessel at the scene on Biscayne Bay. She gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Soleimani as he clung to life while she waited in frustration for help that didn’t come in time.

“He had a light, faint pulse. It was on and off,”said Fritzie Ortiz, the nurse who leaped from the sailboat onto a sinking, battered powerboat to aid Soleimani. “He probably could have made it.”

Ortiz and others aboard the sailboat provided the first detailed account Tuesday to the Miami Herald of the harrowing aftermath of the July Fourth wreck. They described a chaotic scramble to help by fellow boaters and assorted marine authorities. Their descriptions of the rescue effort were confirmed by recordings of emergency radio transmissions and one survivor.

“Our family was shattered in a matter of minutes,”said Lynda Hanono, a 52-year-old survivor who suffered a broken nose. “It did feel like forever. But you don’t know. When you go into panic, you don’t know how long it was.”

Jorge Pino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is leading the investigation, said Tuesday that he had heard about efforts by the sailboat crew.

He defended the response, saying authorities were dealing with multiple boats, multiple injuries, knocked-out boaters and “hundreds of boats in the bay swerving around, causing wake and more havoc.”

“Nobody appreciates the chaotic nature of this case,”he said. “This is the worst of the worst that you could fathom. And for our guys to work the way they did under the conditions they did, to me they’re heroes.”

Investigators continue to look into the crash. Authorities say they found evidence of alcohol aboard the Contender, which struck the other boats, but won’t know whether alcohol was a factor until they receive the results of toxicology tests.

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