911 calls released after speeding yacht barely misses closing drawbridge, damages boats

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Newly released 911 calls captured the tense moments after a yacht sped through a no wake zone in Fort Lauderdale in order to beat a closing drawbridge, causing significant damage to several docked boats and leaving one of those vessels’ owners with an ankle injury.

Viral cellphone video recorded by witness Jeremy Rafferty showed the yacht racing along the Intracoastal Waterway, next to the Commercial Boulevard drawbridge, Sunday evening.

The frantic 911 calls conveyed the severity of the chaotic scene.

“There was a boat that went down the Intracoastal. He’s heading towards Atlantic Boulevard,” a caller said in one of the recordings, “went speeding, and all four boats went up in the air. Some guy fell down.”

Rafferty said he was working at the waterfront Kaluz Restaurant, located along East Commercial Boulevard, when he spotted the speeding yacht.

His video went on to capture the vessels slamming against the dock. At one point, he is heard warning people to stay away.

“Don’t even try! Don’t try!” said Rafferty in the video.

The witness spoke with 7News Thursday afternoon.

“I knew there was nothing you could do with the boats,” he said. “You could get hurt like that. One guy did.”

Rafferty’s video shows a boat’s owner right after he broke his ankle while trying to secure his vessel against the strong waves.

The restaurant employee then called 911.

“There’s a guy with a broken leg. A boat came speeding through and knocked all the boats through,” said Rafferty during the call.

“There’s a bunch of boats tied to the dock and the guy (unintelligible) forced a wake, and the boat just got destroyed,” said another caller.

Shane Sultan said his boat was damaged, but he was still able to drive it north in the yacht’s direction.

“I ran out of the restaurant as quickly as I could because I knew that there was going to be some damage,” he said.

While on board his boat, Sultan dialed 911.

“I’m following the guy … I need the [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission] or the Coast Guard or somebody,” he said during the call.

FWC officials said they have seen Rafferty’s video and are investigating.

“Millions of dollars worth of boats that got damaged. My boat got damaged, and I just wanted to see that some justice got done,” said Sultan.

Officials are still trying to determine who was at the helm of the boat. Once found, charges could follow.

If you have any information on the yacht recorded in the video or its owner, call Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $3,000 reward.

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