(WSVN) - During the pandemic, plenty of people hit the water as a safe way to socially distance and still have fun, but the surge in personal watercraft use has given rise to a different kind of danger. 7’s Karen Hensel has tonight’s special report, “Fast and Furious.”
Out on the water and out of control. The social media site Only in Dade provided an up-close-and-personal look at personal watercraft turning into trouble.
From collisions to police chases, the videos capture riders being reckless and irresponsible.
Mayor Brent Latham, North Bay Village: “These Jet Skis these days, you know, they sound like little jumbo jets.”
And their runways are everywhere. From Biscayne Bay in Miami-Dade, up the Intracoastal in Broward, Jet Skis and WaveRunners have taken South Florida waterways by storm.
Karen Hensel: “Since the pandemic, what have you seen with the number of Jet Skiers and the boats out on the water?”
Officer Kenny Hendon, North Bay Village Police: “It’s definitely increased. Has it gotten a lot worse? Yeah. There’s been a lot more out here. Ninety-five percent of the problems out here come from these rentals.”
Marine Patrol Officer Kenny Hendon says many tourists come here looking for thrills without the skills and knowledge necessary to operate these watercraft safely.
Officer Kenny Hendon: “I’ll stop them, and I’ll say, ‘Listen, you have to be careful. This is a manatee zone,’ or, ‘This is an idle speed zone. You may wake someone’s vessel,’ and they go, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know,’ and I said, ‘Well, unfortunately, when you got your car your first day, you didn’t go running through red lights.'”
Unlike a car, you do not need a driver’s license to operate a personal watercraft in Florida. You do have to be at least 14 years old, and those born after 1988 have to complete a boating safety course first.”
Officer Kenny Hendon: “There’s no skills test, none. It’s all information.”
Karen Hensel: “You just pop right on a Jet Ski.”
Officer Kenny Hendon: “Yes, ma’am.”
Karen Hensel: “Fourteen, 15 years old.”
Officer Kenny Hendon: “Yes, ma’am.”
Personal watercraft can reach speeds of more than 60 miles per hour.
We spotted them in packs zipping by anchored boats.
Officer Kenny Hendon: “There’s no room for error out here. It’s not like a vehicle where, if you have an accident in a vehicle, you can pull to the side, hopefully everything is good. Out here, if you have an accident, it can be fatal.”
Sadly, it has been.
Florida Fish and Wildlife officer: “My heart goes out to his family.”
Last summer, a man died after authorities say he slammed into Miami Marine Stadium.
Witness: “We heard a loud bang, and he fell off the Jet Ski after he hit the wall.”
In March, 20-year-old Alexander Garcia’s body was found after days of searching in a West Miami-Dade lake.
There have also been a number of close calls in the past year. Riders who were injured but survived.
Ralph Rayburn, SkyForce HD, April: “A woman was unconscious, and they revived her.”
Wife, May: “He just slammed into my husband. To see him in such pain, it broke my heart. I couldn’t deal with it.”
According to the FWC data, there were 227 personal watercraft accidents in Florida in 2020, 41 more than in 2019.
Alda Tedeschi: “It’s scary. It really is.”
Alda Tedeschi lives along the Intracoastal in Fort Lauderdale and took video from her balcony.
Alda Tedeschi: “Since the pandemic, it’s been triple, double, at least, the amount of Jet Skis that are out there. It’s pretty loud. My dog can even hear it, and he’s losing his hearing.”
Residents of North Bay Village have taken to Facebook to voice concerns about marine life in the bay and the noise.
Mayor Brent Latham: “It’s like if someone were outside your house speeding up and down the road all day.”
With summer right around the corner, the fast riding will continue, even if it makes others furious.
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