MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Police have released the identities of two women who died after their car fell off the Fisher Island Ferry and sank in Government Cut.
The bodies of driver Emma Afra, 63, of Miami Beach, and passenger Viviane Brahms, 75, of Harrison, New York, were recovered from the water, Miami-Dade police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said Wednesday.
They were killed after their 2019 Mercedes-Benz somehow went overboard Tuesday afternoon.
Divers searched throughout the night to find the car. Inside were the women's bodies.
A medical examiner will determine their causes of death.
Now investigators are trying to determine what caused the car to fall off the ferry, which is used to shuttle residents and guests of the private island to and from the mainland.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he’s watching the investigation closely.
“I want to know how in the world it got over,” he said. “I want to take a look at the entire operation and make changes to make sure it’s absolutely safe -- that ferry system is absolutely safe.”
Safety measures were already happening on board the Fisher Island Ferries Wednesday as workers were spotted placing tire chocks in front of vehicles. They were also asking drivers to engage their park brake, but very little still separates the cars from the water.
The U.S. Coast Guard monitors a total of five ferries which shuttle people and vehicles to and from Fisher Island around the clock.
“The Pelican,” which was involved in Tuesday’s incident, was inspected just last month.
And while details about the inspection are unknown, we do know inspectors focus on the vessel’s stability, condition of the hulls, lifesaving equipment and emergency plans.
Despite the missing car and women, the service kept operating Tuesday, which infuriated search crews.
Meanwhile, those in South Florida who knew Afra are remembering her as someone who cared deeply about her community.
“Emma was very philanthropic. She had a strong desire to give back to the community,” Kristi House CEO Amanda Altman said.
Afra volunteered her time and money with Kristi House, a children’s advocacy center that deals with children and trauma. She took a break from volunteering after her husband died a few years ago.
“I think it’s tragic that just as she’s ready to re-engage, this happens,” Altman said. “We were looking forward to her coming back and helping us at Kristi House.”