Slight Water Damage

By: James Weber

The phone rings absurdly early…again.  Still half asleep, I answer in my usual cheerful mood one gets to enjoy after waking me up so early.  GTFOH, nobody would do that on purpose! Well, apparently “God told him” to drive his $200K mint-condition, midnight blue Ferrari off a dock that morning.  Now mind you, it’s not a dock that is just in a few feet of water. It’s in a pretty busy commercial shipping inlet also used by the infamous Floridian weekend “boat captains”.  You know the type we all deal with at dive sites – more money than skill and brains. 

The insurance company has already told us they want this car back with as little damage as possible.  Even having been submerged in salt-water and a total loss, it’s still worth over $80K just in parts. Although, I suspect we’ll see it at a used car dealership with “slight water damage”. 

Time to get to work 

We get on scene and check conditions.  Being the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) makes life a little easier because when a command is established, things just flow smoother.  We gather the usual suspects: PD, FD, USCG, and the observing officer. Witness statements are recorded and we have a good general idea of where the car is. 

The problem is that modern cars are sealed up pretty well and can actually float for quite some time.  Since it is in the inlet, tide is a major factor on the final position. We know the tide was just starting to come in, so the car will be west of the entry point.  We quickly check the area with sonar and locate the vehicle in 38 feet of water.

Ferrari in the Sea

It’s not every day you get to see a Ferrari on the bottom of the ocean, but this is the second one we’ve seen.  The game plan is set in place and a LOT of people are not going to be happy. We basically have to shut down the port and the inlet to large commercial traffic for several hours.  Luckily for us, we’ve got the USCG with us and with that kind of clout, we get a lot of “yes sir, whatever you need sir” (my favorite kind of response). 

The tide was just starting to come in when Mario drove it off the dock, but now it’s pretty much screaming.  If you know South Florida inlets, you know you can get 5-6 knots of current during a tide change; this is basically swiftwater. 

Using the current 

Now, with that being said, current can definitely be used to our advantage.  When we float it up, the current will help us tow it to the nearest boat launch over a mile away.  We hop in upstream and drift into the vehicle. We quickly clear the vehicle and then secure a line from the towing boat.  This will assist us in sending down all the tools of the trade we need to finish the job; we just zip line it all down. We attach our bags, open the tank valves and get the hell out of Dodge, er, Ferrari. 

We make sure to stay upstream, just in case a bag fails and the vehicle comes back down.  Ever so slightly it starts to rise. The tow boat captain instantly knows the car is coming up because he’s no longer using the Ferrari as a $200K anchor.  He tightens his tow lines up and we start to drift. Using the several PD Marine Patrols now on scene, we have them clear our path of obstacles (namely rubbernecking boaters). 

Apparently, it’s been a slow news day, because there are 3 local news station helicopters circling overhead.  After a painfully slow 45-minute trip, we get to the boat ramp and again, we’re met with an onslaught of news media.  Luckily several of us have PIO (Public Information Officer) training and are able to answer their questions without looking too stupid. 

Removing the vehicle from the water 

The Rotator (really, really big tow truck) is waiting for us.  We secure the cables from the truck to the car and have everyone clear the area.  Anytime cables or lines are under tension there is a potential for them to snap and take out whatever they hit.  Remember Master Diver Carl Brashear made famous by Cuba Gooding Jr. in the movie Men of Honor. 

She is slowly pulled from her watery grave and gleams in the sunlight once again.  Other than being wet, she looks damn good. I just KNOW she will be on a lot somewhere after they dry her out.  I did hear a few days later that they installed a new battery and computer and she started right up. A few weeks later I could have sworn I saw her being sold in Miami.  Somebody got a great deal, just slight water damage.

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