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Boat Sinks Near Miami, 30 People Pulled From Water

MIAMI (CBS4) - A scare in the water off Key Biscayne over the weekend after 30 people and a dog were thrown into the water after the boat they were on sank.

It happened Sunday near the Miami Seaquarium.

As the 42 foot vessel began to take on water, many of its passengers had no choice but to jump into the bay.

Other boaters in the area came to their rescue.

"About 12 of them had pfds (personal flotation devices). Several of them did not. Some of them looked like they could handle themselves in the water, some of them were clearly struggling," said Charles Brennan who turned his boat around and rushed to save the stranded passengers.

GALLERY: PARTY BOAT SINKS; OFFICIALS RESCUE 30 PEOPLE

"It's a miracle nobody died. When you have that many people on a vessel and the vessel starts to take on water clearly some people are going to panic and they may not even know how to swim," said Officer Jorge Pino with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Some people struggled to stay afloat after having one too many drinks during a Columbus Day weekend celebration.

"This girl that was a little drunk couldn't get out and we helped her get out, but we're all good, just a few scratches," said Juan who was a passenger on the boat that sank.

The Coast Guard credits the quick action of area boaters to rescue those in the water before nine different agencies including the Guard, the FWC, Miami Police, Miami Beach Police and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue arrived to help.

"We needed to get them out of the water or at least get them to the top of the boat, we thought the boat was going all the way down but actually it bottomed out with the top deck barely above water level," said Brennan.

"If it wasn't for the fast response time of all the first responders that got to the scene, there weren't enough life jackets that housed all these people, so if we didn't get there on scene it possibly couldn't have ended as well as it did," said Coast Guard Lt. Mike Ortiz.

Pino said the boat was homemade and was being used as an illegal water taxi to shuttle party-goers for $20 each from Brickell Key to the Nixon Beach sandbar.

"You're not allowed to charge anyone any money to transport people from point A to point B if you're not a licensed captain," said Pino who pointed out that the person driving the boat didn't appear to be licensed.

Investigators have other questions about the sinking including were there too many people onboard when it sank and if proper safety regulations were followed.

"Was the vessel overloaded? That's a very important thing we need to know. Whether or not there were enough life vests on that vessel for all people on board. We're also looking in to if he was careless of potentially even reckless in the decision making to have this many people on board the vessel," said Pino.

As of Monday afternoon no charges had been filed against the boat operator.  CBS4 News attempted to speak with the boat's captain, but he did not comment Monday night.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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