FWC continue searching for body of watercraft rider

MIAMI (WSVN) - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced, Tuesday, that they are still searching for the body of a missing man who fell off a personal watercraft.

Divers and officials were on the scene continuing their recovery efforts in the Blue Lagoon, one day after witnesses said the victim hit a wave before falling into the lake, Monday. The search area in the Blue Lagoon is located between the airport and Northwest Seventh Street, off the Dolphin Expressway.

Family members identified the victim as 32-year-old Manuel Aponte. Aponte is a husband and also a father of a 1-year-old son, according to family members.

“We’re broken,” said the victim’s cousin, who wished to be called Sam. “I don’t believe it, you know. That’s the only thing I can say.”

Sam said Monday afternoon was meant to be a fun day on the water before the events became tragic.

According to witnesses, Aponte was riding a personal watercraft with a group when he hit a wave and fell into the water.

7 Skyforce HD flew overhead capturing the recovery efforts by divers and rescue crews, Tuesday. FWC worked alongside Miami-Dade Police, using sonar devices to help find the missing body.

“We did find the watercraft that was floating. We did also locate a life vest that was also floating in the water,” said Miami Dade Fire Rescue Captain Ignacious Carroll. “It has not been determined whether or not it belongs to him or not.”

Security guard Rick Rojo told 7News he saw the rider going up and splashing into the lagoon after he hit the wave. “It’s almost like he hit something,” he said. “I’m not sure. The JetSki almost came to a full stop, and he just catapulted over it, landed head first, feet in the air.”

Friends circled around to the spot where the rider fell but were unable to locate him. “His friends saw him as they went back by, they saw his abandoned JetSki, and they pointed out to me, ‘Look! That’s where he went in. That’s where he went in,'” said Rojo. “And they started looking for him.”

Officials faced issues of their own in their search for Aponte, Monday evening. “You can imagine with the lagoon, you got the waters that are very murky. You got a lot of seaweed that is down there,” Carroll said, “so it’s not going to be a very easy search.”

Recovery efforts remain ongoing as family members have stayed on the scene waiting for official word on their loved one. FWC are leading this investigation and plan to continue its search and survey the Blue Lagoon throughout Tuesday evening.

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