On the morning of April 12, a sailboat struck the 7 Mile Bridge and a Keys Energy Service tieline about a half-mile from the north end. The fault triggered a system-wide power outage for all 30,000 KEYS customers in the Lower Keys and Key West.
“My officer is still investigating, but it seems several boats in Boot Key Harbor broke loose and dragged anchor. It’s possible that’s what happened here,” said Fish and Wildlife Capt. David Dipre.
Officers from the U.S. Coast Guard and Fish and Wildlife Commission were able to launch a rescue mission immediately, requesting that the utility not be re-energized until an assessment was performed. A rescue boat nosed up to the sailboat and was able to remove the passenger and take him to the Coast Guard Station Marathon where he was met by paramedics from Marathon Fire Rescue. The sailboat was then secured to a bridge piling.
Energy was fully restored to KEYS customers about two hours after the sailboat struck the 7 Mile Bridge.
Dipre said the removal of the boat from the bridge was delayed by a day because the mast had begun to bend.
“We were worried that it might hit the power lines again, as it was being dragged off the bridge,” Dipre said. “Fortunately, the stanchions and guide wires supporting the mast had already begun to break, so nobody had to cut anything.”
The boat was secured on the west side of Boot Key Harbor, Dipre said.
“The good part is that the owner has taken responsibility. He hired Tow Boat U.S. to get the boat off the bridge,” said Dipre.
In early March, the Keys Weekly reported two derelict vessels blown ashore near the gulf side of the 7 Mile Bridge. In cases where the owner does not take responsibility, it can be weeks or months before a boat is removed. First, the FWC conducts an investigation to find the owner, then the courts issue a criminal citation. If the owner doesn’t respond within 35 days, either Monroe County or FWC will step in to handle the removal and eventual destruction of the vessel.
To report a possible or actual derelict vessel, call 888-404-3922 or email [email protected]