Top Stories of 2013
12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. The years seem to go by so fast and 2013 was no different. Of course, the fast-paced South Florida lifestyle does nothing to slow down the clock; it only tends to crank things up a notch. It all means that one day's big news story quickly becomes yesterday's memory. What's so important to you today, may easily be forgotten tomorrow. But don't worry, we've got you covered when it comes to remembering the highs and lows of 2013. It was a year filled with the serious and outrageous, shocks and surprises and the fun and fantastic. So without any further ado, here are the Top 10 Stories of 2013.
What started as a rowdy gathering of Miami Heat fans watching their beloved team in the NBA Finals took just seconds to turn into all-out chaos.
On June 13, the wooden deck at Shuckers Bar & Grill failed to withstand the weight of excited fans and collapsed, dumping dozens of people into the dark waters of Biscayne Bay.
Said Heat fan Selina Mills, "We heard a cheer for the Heat and the next thing I know, I was falling backwards."
A frantic search began immediately, but rescue efforts were hampered by poor lighting in the area. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue treated 24 people on-scene, with 15 taken to local hospitals.
In the days that followed it was learned that the deck at Shuckers had never been inspected by a government agency, and that in the restaurant's 40-year history only one inspection had ever been conducted. A Local 10 investigation showed that similar decks and piers in South Florida had also gone uninspected for years or not at all.
Shuckers remained closed following the accident and has yet to reopen.
There were a lot of things that Wanda McGowan probably wanted to accomplish on the morning of October 12. Getting stuck on an open drawbridge and having her picture sent around the world probably wasn't one of them.
McGowan's trip to the skies over the New River began innocently enough as a participant in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K walk in Fort Lauderdale.
But in a scene ripped directly from a Bugs Bunny or Roadrunner cartoon script, the 55-year-old took a wrong turn and found herself crossing a railroad drawbridge... and that's when it got interesting.
Almost immediately, the untendered bridge began to open, leaving McGowan with only one option; hang on for dear life. Like a pink-festooned Spider-Man, McGowan serenely clung to the bridge; never moving, never flinching a muscle.
Firefighters arrived 20 minutes later and used a ladder to bring McGowan down from her lofty perch, ending one of the craziest ordeals in breast cancer walk history.
However, McGowan's journey to infamy was just beginning as pictures of her sprawled atop the drawbridge while wearing a bra, pink tank top and a not-safe-for-work belt buckle made their way all over the globe.
Luckily for McGowan, the embarrassment was the harshest penalty she would receive as the Florida East Coast Railway, the bridge's operator, decided not to file trespassing charges against her.
A mission of mercy turned into one of despair off the coast of Fort Lauderdale on November 19.
Just minutes after dropping off a patient at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, a medical flight with two pilots, a doctor and a nurse bound for Mexico crashed into the ocean about a mile off the coast.
A search began immediately and eventually encompassed over 4,000 miles.
Two bodies were recovered within in the first hours after the crash, but the two bodies of the remaining passengers were never located.
Aboard the plane were pilots Jose Hiram Galvan de la O. and Josue Buendía Moreno and passengers Fernando Senties Nieto and Mariana Gonzalez Isunza. The group had picked up an unknown patient in Costa Rica and flew them to South Florida.
In a distress call, the pilot tells the air traffic control tower, "We have an engine failure," and he requests permission to return to the runway. "We're going to do a 180 and we're going to land," he says. A few minutes later, in response to the tower's instructions, the pilot says, "Mayday, mayday, mayday."
Within days of the crash it was revealed that the FAA had warned of potential problems in the Learjet 35 model used in the ill-fated flight.
Maybe there was something lost in the translation. Maybe Penelope Cruz was just telling a Miami-Dade Circuit Judge to have a nice day.
Or maybe not.
Back in February, Cruz kept jumping from one pool of hot water to the next during a court appearance on possession charges. After Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat dismissed her with $10,000 bond, Cruz, 18, walked away muttering "F___ you" and flipped his honor the bird.
Not surprisingly, Rodriguez-Chomat found nothing funny about the gesture or Cruz' attitude and immediately responded by holding her in contempt of court and sentenced her to 30 days in the bird cage.... AKA, jail.
From that moment on, Cruz' "bird" flew all over the Internet and airwaves, while some questioned whether the judge had gone too far in laying down the law in defense of common courtesy and decency.
However, just days later a more demure and friendly Soto, with middle finger nowhere to be seen, appeared before Rodriguez-Chomat and apologized for her actions.
Soto said she was sorry, telling the judge, "I apologize not only to you but to my family," before sniffling back a soft cry.
Accepting the semi-tearful apology, a compassionate Rodriguez-Chomat dropped the contempt charge and the jail sentence.
Soto then left the court, climbed into the back seat of a car and flew away into the halls of South Florida infamy.
While we've all grown fond, some would say dependant, of social media as a way to connect with current friends and reconnect with old ones; the world of social media took a dark and morbid turn over the summer.
In early August, Derek Medina posted a message on his Facebook account that could not have been more chilling.
"I'm going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife," Medina wrote.
Medina then added something that had never before been seen on a popular social media website: a picture of a dead woman; his own wife, Jennifer Alfonso, shot dead.
Police say Medina, 31, then drove to the South Miami Police Department and told officers what he had done, claiming he had acted in self-defense after Alfonso began punching him during an argument. Alfonso's daughter was in the home when her mother was murdered.
Facebook immediately removed the post, but by then it had already been shared by hundreds.
A picture of paranoia and violence began to arise from Medina's past as neighbors said the man kept his windows covered and had surveillance cameras pointed at his front door. Medina also wrote several e-books with long and bizarre titles that dealt with relationships and his experience with aliens.
Medina, now with full beard, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges in December. Prosecutors say Alfonso, 26, was likely cowering and on her knees when she was fatally shot and that they have evidence that Medina had told others that he would kill his wife if she ever tried to leave him.
A tentative trial date has been set for March 17, 2014.
COMING TOMORROW: #5 STORY OF 2013