KEY BISCAYNE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida man has made it his mission to terminate trash from the environment, but a dirty deed briefly set him back this weekend.
Andrew Otazo used a kayak on Saturday to get to an island off Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park Marina that needed cleaning.
When he came back, he said, the kayak was gone, leaving him stuck and stranded.
Otazo’s cleanup efforts are part of his longtime passion for the environment.
“These environments — the mangroves, the seagrass beds — they’re a part of me,” he said. “I grew up in Miami, and I don’t know, it’s something I have a compulsion to do. I can’t help myself. It brings me peace to do it.”
Otazo, whose day job is in public relations, paddled out on his kayak to pick up nearly 400 pounds of other people’s trash on the island.
He documented his work on video.
Then came the moment he’d been dreading during the four years he’s been picking up trash.
“It’s always in the back of my mind, whenever I go paddle out to these islands and do my work there, the thought is, ‘What if someone steals my kayak, and I’m stuck here?'” he said, “and then it finally happened, and I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, I guess I’ve been doing this for a few years. It happened.'”
Otazo said the skies opened up, making an unfortunate situation even worse.
“Then it started raining, and then that really, really was not pleasant,” he said.
Thankfully, Otazo had one important tool on him to seek help.
“I first thought, ‘Maybe I’ll have to swim back to shore,’ and then I thought to myself, ‘No, you have your phone, call the county, you’ll be fine,'” he said.
While he waited a half hour or so for the ride, he posted the video to social media. South Florida-based documentarian Billy Corben retweeted it, giving the clip an even wider audience.
Among those who viewed the video was a woman who reached out to Otazo with an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“Some lady just reached out. She’d left Miami, she had a kayak in storage for years, and she offered to give it to me, and I’m going to go pick it up on Tuesday,” said Otazo.
After hours of trash pickup, a stolen kayak, a rainstorm and hitching a ride with the county, Otazo said he had one thing on his mind.
“I was really cold and really dirty. I just wanted to shower,” he said. “I was like, ‘That’s cool, but I feel awful. Let me get clean.'”
For anyone still interested in making a donation, Otazo has asked that those be sent to Kipp Miami Liberty Academy instead. He said the children who attend the school could really use people’s help.
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