Yesterday, crews rushed to save two female researchers from Florida International University who had been ejected from their airboat in the Florida Everglades south of Alligator Alley. According to Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue officials, the women — whose names were not released — were conducting research when their airboat started malfunctioning and gave out. “While they were investigating the maintenance issue with their airboat, the airboat suddenly took off, ejecting both passengers into the water,” said BSFR Battalion Chief Michael Kane.
Fortunately, the women’s cell phones still functioned and they were able to call for help. Rescuers found them nearly two hours later by using the ping from their cell phone. Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boats responded to the scene, which was around mile marker 42 about 8 miles east of the Collier County line. Flight medics assisted both victims, ages 27 and 29. One woman suffered a leg injury and was transported to a boat ramp on Interstate 75 where a BSFR helicopter then airlifted her to Broward Health medical center. The other injured her shoulder.
Rescuers say the women were lucky because they are experienced, and the incident took place early in the day. “There’s a lot of wildlife out here in the Everglades, and one of the considerations that we take is to be able to affect those rescues in the daylight hours because of the threat of alligators during the evening hours,” said Kane.
FIU released a statement yesterday saying:
“As a result of this incident, the Division of Research at FIU has suspended all airboat operations until a full review of the incident can be conducted. At FIU we appreciate the quick response of Broward County Sheriff Fire Rescue and look forward to the individual’s full recovery.”
Crews with FWC and FIU were attempting to retrieve the airboat, but as of Wednesday night, it had not yet been towed back.