NEAR FISHER ISLAND, Fla. (WSVN) – Two women have been found dead inside of a car that fell off a ferry, which runs between Fisher Island and Miami Beach.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue units responded to the scene off Government Cut at around 5 p.m., Tuesday.
The operators of the Pelican ferry boat reported a car had gone overboard, and two women were in the vehicle, according to witnesses.
Police later identified the driver as 63-year-old Emma Afra and 75-year-old Viviane Brahms, of Harrison, New York, as the passenger.
Afra was a resident of Fisher Island, was known for her philanthropic work in the community and was well-known in the Miami social scene.
According to the Miami Herald, those close to the investigation believe that Afra did not have her car in park and could have mistakenly hit the accelerator, causing her car to roll off the ferry.
The newspaper also reported that divers found the car over 50 feet underwater, and the bodies of the two friends were in the back seat locked in an embrace.
The Fisher Island Community Association released a statement on Afra’s death, Wednesday.
“The entire Fisher Island Community mourns their loss, and our hearts and prayers go out to their families and loved ones at this very difficult time,” the statement read.
Ferry workers typically place blocks against the tires of vehicles on the vessel to prevent them from rolling through the tarp-like barrier.
“The Coast Guard is conducting a marine casualty investigation to determine what may have happened to cause this tragedy and to prevent future occurrences,” U.S. Coast Guard Sector Miami Commander Capt. Jo-Ann Burdian said.
Afra was a big supporter of Kristi House, an organization dedicated to helping children who were victims of child sexual abuse, sex trafficking and other child traumas.
Amanda Altman, the CEO of Kristi House, said in a statement, “Emma never took no for an answer, especially when it came to doing something that would help the children and families Kristi House serves. She put her blood, sweat and tears into making sure we had great success in our fundraising efforts. We are grateful for her dedication to Kristi House over the years, and we will miss her generous spirit and kind heart.”
Adam Sands formerly worked at a nightclub that Brahms and her husband owned in Manhattan and was left shocked after hearing about her death.
“Viviane always carried herself with elegance and [was] just a beautiful woman inside and out,” said Sands.
Videos and pictures posted on social media showed rescue crews teaming up by air and sea as they searched for the vehicle.
7SkyForce HD hovered over the scene where two rescue divers could be seen searching in the water.
Aerial footage showed an empty space on the front of the Pelican ferry.
7News cameras captured divers locating an apparent piece of the car, Tuesday night.
City of Miami and Miami Beach fire rescue crews also assisted in the search.
7News cameras captured several ambulances waiting at the nearby Coast Guard station.
Wednesday morning, the blue 2019 Mercedes-Benz was towed away from the Miami Beach U.S. Coast Guard station.
The Miami-Dade Police Department and U.S. Coast Guard continue to investigate.
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