Families cope after Fourth of July boating tragedy

WSVN — It was a tragic July 4th boating accident that took four lives. The man charged in the accident was just acquitted. And now he’s sharing his story. He spoke to Rosh Lowe in tonight’s edition of the Lowedown.

Rosh Lowe: "Talk to me about how quickly life can change."

Eli Hanono: "In an instant. I’m enjoying a great day with my family to blink your eye, and everything changes."

It was July 4, 2014 … a night out on the water for Eli Hanono and his family. The fireworks had ended, and Eli was heading back land. But then, about two miles from Dinner Key Marina, near Coconut Grove, police said, he was broadsided by a 32-foot boat driven by 23-year-old Andrew Garcia.

Eli Hanono: "At that moment, I just assessed the damage and just went with the my instincts."

His first instinct is to save his two young children, ages 4 and 7. His wife was severely injured, and spent more than a month in the hospital. His mom Linda left with broken bones. His sister’s fiancé, Jason Solamni, would die.

Heather Hanono: "That’s my Jason."

In the days following the crash, we spoke with Eli’s mom and sister, and you could feel the pain.

It’s a pain Eli carries with him to this very day.

Heather Hanono: "It’s been tough. I think about him all the time."

They are the families of the victims on the other boat. We spoke with the father of Andrew Garcia shortly after the incident.

Victoria Dempsey and Kelsie Karpiak would all die…

Eli would be charged with a misdemeanor for failure to yield and would face jail time if found guilty.

Eli Hanono: "Charged several months later with a crime that I never thought I did anything."

Wednesday, the case came before a judge and the judge found him not guilty.

Scott Bennet, Defense attorney: "He fought to the end and was exonerated."

Rosh Lowe: "There were three lives on the other boat that were lost. Do you think of them at all?"

Eli Hanono: "Yes, I feel for their families. It’s hard. I always have."  

Scott Bennet: "The judge said it very clearly, there are no winners here. He gave his condolences to everyone, which we have since the beginning. It’s a horrible tragedy and accidents happen."

So this closes the chapter on a case filled with loss. The loss will never fade for any of the families. And Eli who will now move on with his life left with this message

Eli Hanono: "Nothing really matters. Except your family. Take day by day as it comes."