A tragic boating accident in Biscayne Bay near Miami Beach took the life of Raul Menendez. Menendez of Hialeah, Florida and his friends chartered the luxury yacht Miami Vice for a day of sun and fun in Biscayne Bay. The 91 foot Miami Vice is offered for half day, full day as well as overnight charters via its owner’s website. The yacht ran aground on April 1, 2018 in an area near Monument Island. At some point Menendez entered the water. It is unknown at this time if he fell or jumped into the water. As he was behind the yacht, the operator, 49-year-old Mauricio Alvarez, put the engines in reverse in order the free the yacht from its strand. Menendez was sucked into the propellers and was killed. The yacht was towed to the Miami Beach Coast Guard station pending investigation.
Investigation conducted by law enforcement revealed that Alvarez did not have a Coast Guard license to captain the Miami Vice while on charter. On April 12, 2018, Alvarez was arrested in Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport attempting to flee the United States to Panama. Alvarez told Federal authorities that he was going to Panama to, “make a better decision of what to do” because he “was scared of being criminally charged.” A Federal Magistrate Judge ordered Alvarez to be detained and he was charged with misconduct and negligence of a ship officer that resulted in the death of an individual. The charge, if proven, could carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
As Alvarez faces criminal charges, the yacht’s owner can face civil liabilities for the death of Menendez. Maritime law allows the victim, and in this case, his family, the right to bring a civil lawsuit for damages against the yacht captain, the yacht owner and the yacht itself for any and all operational negligence that had a causal relationship to the accident. The Coast Guard requires the yacht to be captained by a licensed operator during all charters. Since Alvarez was not licensed by the Coast Guard, he, and the yacht’s ownership, is presumed under maritime law to be at fault for the accident. A claim of negligence can also be based upon not having a proper lookout posted while operating the yacht in reverse.