'This Has Never Happened': 2 Women Killed After Car Rolls Off Ferry In Florida

Thursday, February 20th 2020, 6:21 am
By: CBS News

An investigation is underway in Florida after a car rolled off a ferry into a channel more than 50 feet deep, killing two women inside on Tuesday. The car was apparently at the front of the ferry, which regularly transports vehicles and passengers between Fisher Island and Miami Beach, about two miles apart.

The Mercedes-Benz was being driven by 63-year-old Emma Afra with 75-year-old Viviane Brahms inside. Dive crews searched the waters Tuesday night and eventually found the two deceased women inside the car, reportedly embracing each other in the back seat.

"It's still very early in the investigative process. Our teams here from Sector Miami alongside Miami-Dade County Police have communicated with the crew and with passengers and are just beginning to put those pieces together," said Capt. Jo-Ann Burdian, the Coast Guard Sector Miami commander.

Residents of Fisher Island, an exclusive community with a population of about 800 families, said they've never heard of anything like this happening before, CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez reports.

"I've been living here for 23 years, and you know, this has never happened," one resident said.

Ferries or private boats are the only ways to get on or off the island. The Fisher Island Community Association, which runs the ferry that Afra and Brahms were on, issued a statement saying, "The entire ... community mourns their loss and our hearts and prayers go out to their families and loved ones."  

Blocks, known as chocks, are put in front of the wheels of cars on the ferry to keep them from rolling, according to an "Inside Edition" producer who took the seven-minute trip on the same ferry line. The chocks reportedly aren't required by law, but the Coast Guard told the Miami Herald the crew is believed to have used them to secure the Mercedes-Benz on Tuesday.

The only other barrier appeared to be a thin netting at the front of the boat.

Sources familiar with the investigation told the Miami Herald they believe Afra may have forgotten to put the car in park and accidentally hit the gas pedal, possibly driving over the chocks.

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