'Boating is to Florida what skiing is to Colorado ...'
MIAMI — In the clear waters of the bay here, not far from President Richard M. Nixon’s former compound on Key Biscayne, boaters enjoying a floating bacchanal routinely drop anchor on a sandbar, tether their boats together, and spend the day swimming, drinking, blasting music and jumping from boat to boat.
Last month, just after the fireworks faded on the Fourth of July, a group of five sunbaked 20-somethings who had spent the day frolicking at the sandbar joined in the scramble of boats back to shore. Maneuvering his father’s 32-foot boat at high speed toward a popular marina in the dark, the driver, a 23-year-old, smashed headlong into the hull of a 36-foot craft carrying a family of eight.
In an instant, bodies catapulted into the bay. Some lay badly banged up or unconscious inside the two boats. Four young people, including the driver of the first boat, died, and three others were critically injured in the crash.
State agents said there was evidence of alcohol on board the 32-foot boat, but they added that toxicology reports and the investigation into the crash are pending.
The crash was one of the worst ever in Florida, a state with the largest number of boaters and by far the longest tally of boating accidents, injuries and fatalities. Last year, the state logged 736 accidents; 420 people were injured and 62 died. In 2012, there were 704 accidents. California, with the second largest number of boaters, had less than half as many accidents that year. Keep reading.