Quick thinking helped save man, 4 others, from sinking boat

Ernesto Garcia's boat took on water over weekend

MIAMI – Rescuers have been busy on South Florida waters all month long.  

There was a suspected high speed boating accident more than a week ago which sent six people to the hospital just off Miami Beach.

And four people were injured over the weekend when two boats collided in Fort Lauderdale, near the dock at Bokampers Sports Bar & Grill.

Also,  this past weekend Ernesto Garcia found his fishing boat taking on water and slowly sinking. 

"At first you start to worry and then you just remember to stay calm ... and (I) grabbed the VHF radio and advised everyone else to grab their life jackets," he said.

Garcia had four passengers onboard at the time.

"We knew it was only a matter of minutes before we'd be going under completely," he said.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials managed to reach the boat just in time and desperately tried to pump water out of the vessel.

"We ask that boater take all the precautions necessary to stay safe, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue recommends that for privately owned or rented vessels, perform a thorough systems and entire boat inspection.  Prevention is paramount and can save lives," Erika Benitez, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said. 

Benitez said boaters should follow boating  guidelines when on the water. 

These tips include:

1. Vapor explosions/flashes can occur in an instant and without warning.

2. Once a problem is recognized, identify the source if possible seek safe harbor and relay any and all emergency concerns via cell phone if within range of shore/cell towers or over VHF channel 16.

3. Eliminate any and all possible sources of ignition including but not limited to electronics, cigarettes or cigars, and even e-cigarettes.

4. Ventilation to reduce the concentration of ignitable fumes. Either "make way" or open hatches.

5. Have the proper U.S. Coast Guard approved safety equipment in the event of an explosion or flash.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Garcia did everything right, by  staying calm and having the proper safety equipment. Safety officials hope the incident sends a strong message ahead of a busy boating holiday weekend.

"Most of our accidents that occur during Memorial Day weekend are a result of carelessness, operator error or the fact that people are drinking and operating vessels. So hopefully these safety tips will be followed," Capt. Ignatius Carroll of Miami Fire Rescue said. 

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