Boater who first responded to fatal Key Biscayne boat crash says fate put him there

The good Samaritan who stumbled upon the scene of a fatal boat collision a mile off Key Biscayne is speaking out, saying had it not been for his engine trouble, he would have never noticed the dozen people in the water after the boats collided late at night.

Authorities said two boats crashed, one with five people on board and the other with seven people, leaving several injured and two dead.

Miami Fire Rescue officials said someone called about the incident around 10:45 p.m., one mile west of Key Biscayne, Friday.

Xavier Ruiz heard them in the water.

“We heard some people screaming in the darkness [and] they were calling for help” said Ruiz. “Then we saw behind them two boats, one boat sinking. In fact, it sunk and another boat that was leaning towards the right with two people on top.”

7News cameras on Saturday captured authorities at the scene near Nixon Beach.

One of the boats was 21-feet long, and the other was just over 30-feet long. One of the vessels started to sink as first responders, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, pulled people from the water.

Ruiz and his crew were the first ones who went into rescue mode.

“Each one of us did a different thing,” said Ruiz. “I was piloting the boat, my wife called 911, she passed the phone to me and someone else was throwing life jackets. Others were getting some lines to reach them.”

Miami Fire Rescue arrived quickly after and said one of the vessels apparently T-boned the other.

“There were 11 patients that we needed to treat and assess. Ten of those patients were transported to area hospitals, two in critical condition, one minor, one adult, and there was also another minor that was transported to the hospital,” said City of Miami Fire Rescue Lt. Pete Sanchez.

First responders, including the coast guard, said they were able to rescue a total of 10 people from the water, and recovered the body of an elderly man, a short time later.

Hours later, a second male victim, in his 60s, was located in the water. He was transported to the ER where he was pronounced dead.

Ruiz believes the rescue was somewhat a work of fate. They happened to be going back to the marina with only one working engine.

“Our engine stalled before that, and then it kind of started up again after the accident,” Ruiz recalled. “We may not have heard them with just one engine. We were driving back slowly, and we could hear them, and maybe with two engines on that wouldn’t have been the case.”

All of the victims were transported to Mercy Hospital and Ryder Trauma Center.

Officials said one of the victims in critical condition is a 15-year-old boy who nearly drowned. He was taken to Ryder Trauma Center.

The other victim in critical condition is a 7-year-old boy who suffered stomach injuries. His mother is listed in stable condition.

The rest of the victims suffered minor injuries, officials said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is the lead agency in the ongoing investigation.