Four Miami-Dade County men returning from a night of bully-netting for lobster were just a few hundred feet from the boat ramp on Card Sound Road early Friday morning when their boat slammed into a concrete utility pole, killing two and triggering a multi-agency search.
Driver Samuel W. Sayers, 29, of Naranja, and Donald W. Edwards II, 49, of Cutler Bay, died in the accident, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) report.
The owner of the 17-foot backcountry flats boat, Marlin Wilson Jr., 52, of Homestead, and Jon Earl McGlothlin, 49, of Redland, survived the crash and were rescued by FWC and Coast Guard crews, said FWC spokesman Officer Bobby Dube.
Wilson was able to jump from the boat before it struck the pole near Card Sound Bridge, Dube said. The three other men were thrown from the boat, which was traveling about 40 mph. None were wearing life jackets.
Wilson reportedly got one of the boaters to the surface, but couldn't hold on to him in the swift tidal current.
"He had to let him go," Dube said.
Wilson and McGlothlin swam to the still-floating vessel and used a handheld marine radio to call the Coast Guard, Dube said. Both were brought to shore, and McGlothlin was taken to Homestead Hospital with minor injuries, Dube said. A search was launched for Edwards and Sayers.
Key Largo Fire Rescue divers found a generator the men had used for lights to find lobster, but couldn't locate the missing men, Dube said.
The search ended at 10 a.m. when a Coast Guard helicopter spotted the body of one of the men on the mangrove shoreline on the Barnes Sound side of the bridge. Searchers on the water found the other body, Dube said.
"They were almost home," Dube observed, noting the proximity of the boat ramp.
Alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the crash, but it remains under investigation, according to a FWC report.
The Monroe County Sheriff's Office also assisted in the search.