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Two dead, one in critical condition after collision sends 12 people into waters off Key Biscayne

Two people were killed in a late-night boat collision that threw 12 people into the waters off Key Biscayne late Friday. At least one other person, a 15-year-old, was in critical condition, officials said. 

The U.S. Coast Guard said Miami-Dade County officials retrieved the body of a missing man earlier today. “Everyone has been accounted for,” said Petty Officer Jose Hernandez.

The Coast Guard’s account placed the impact one mile west of Key Biscayne; earlier, City of Miami officials put the collision in the vicinity of the “Nixon Beach” sandbar. The Coast Guard said it received a call from one of the crash victims at 10:30 p.m.

Officials from the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County and the U.S. Coast Guard responded with helicopters and multiple dive teams. Key Biscayne police and fire were on standby to assist. 

Officials said the crash was designated a “mass casualty event” because of the number of individuals involved. An elderly male and a male 15-year-old were transported to Ryder Trauma Center, but officials say the adult was pronounced dead at the hospital. Ryder officials did not respond to questions about the survivor’s status. 

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Weather conditions were good at the time, said Miami Fire Rescue Lt. Pete Sanchez. He said one of the vessels was 21 feet, the other, more than 30 feet. There were five people on one boat and seven on the other — all of them were thrown into the water. The larger vessel began to take on water after the impact, he said. 

The investigation is now being led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The names of the individuals were not immediately available, nor the circumstances of how the crash may have taken place. 

The Nixon Beach sandbar is a popular partying spot where boats congregate in a shallow water section of Biscayne Bay, not far from the spot where former President Richard Nixon’s “Winter White House” once stood. It has been connected to previous fatal boating tragedies. 

The area is patrolled during daytime hours by Key Biscayne’s marine police unit, but is not patrolled at night, said chief Frank Sousa. He said officers were on standby last night to assist other agencies if help was needed.

NOTE: This story has been updated.

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Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.

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