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Teenager killed, 5 others hurt in Fort Lauderdale boat crash

13-foot boat hits low-clearance bridge late Wednesday night

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A teenager was killed and five others were hurt when their boat crashed into a bridge in Fort Lauderdale late Wednesday night.

The 13-foot Boston Whaler hit a low-clearance bridge in the south fork of the Middle River near Northeast 18th Court and North Dixie Highway shortly before midnight, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Amanda Phillips said.

"I think they were just, you know, looking around, maybe not looking ahead," Phillips said. 

Local 10 News has learned the teenager who died was John Baker, a 17-year-old rising senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Baker played football for the Raiders.

The injured teens -- all students at St. Thomas Aquinas High School -- were taken to Broward Health Medical Center, where three were listed in critical condition Thursday morning. The remaining two were treated for minor injuries.

At least one teen was released from the hospital about 5 a.m.

"The St. Thomas Aquinas High School family has sadly become aware of a boating accident involving a number of our students," the school said in an email sent to parents. "The faculty, staff and student body offer deepest sympathy and support for the students involved and their parents."

Friends who came to the hospital told Local 10's Jenise Fernandez that Baker "was always a nice guy" and spent a lot of time on his boat. They identified the other victims as Emily Giusti, Sean Mahoney, Kevin Hurst, Chris Gernet and George Marshall.

Prince Hassan said he was supposed to be on the boat, but he decided not to go.

"It could have happened to me," Hassan said.

FWC officers suspect that two of the teens were standing during impact, causing serious head and back injuries.

"If they were standing up they were in trouble, because right now its mid-tide and there's maybe 4 feet (of water) under there," Chris Liptak, a family friend of one of the victims, told Local 10's Ben Kennedy.

Hugo Meyjonade, a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, said Mahoney fractured his spine and needed a hip replacement, and he said Giusti should be walking by Friday. Meyjonade said Hurst and Gernet were fine.

Prayer vigils were held Thursday night at St. Thomas Aquinas High School and on the beach in Fort Lauderdale.

"I remember riding long boards around Fort Lauderdale, and we just felt like we were the king of the world without any problems," senior class president Drew Davis told Local 10's Hatzel Vela.

FWC spokeswoman Liz Barraco said the operator of the boat had the required boater safety identification card. She said investigators will be inspecting the damaged boat to try to determine what happened.

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