Pino pleads not guilty after fatal Biscayne Bay boat crash that killed high school student

Miami real estate broker George Pino didn’t show up Tuesday for his first appearance before a judge to answer for misdemeanor careless boating charges, but instead pleaded not guilty through his attorney.

At the Miami court hearing, Pino’s lawyer, Howard Srebnick, entered the plea to Miami-Dade County Judge Lizzet Martinez via a Zoom call.

George Pino

Pino, 52, was at the helm of his 29-foot Robalo center console boat Sept. 4, 2022, driving from a birthday celebration for his daughter on Elliott Key to his vacation home in Ocean Reef Club, when he slammed the vessel into a fixed channel marker in South Biscayne Bay — throwing all 14 people on board into the water.

View of the channel going south toward Key Largo and Ocean Reef Club in Biscayne Bay, site of a deadly boat crash on Labor Day weekend.

Luciana Fernandez, 17, died in the hospital the next day as a result of injuries she suffered in the crash. Her Our Lady of Lourdes Academy classmate, 18-year-old Katerina Puig, was left with permanent disabilities.

State fish and wildlife police determined alcohol was not a factor, even though when the boat was recovered from the water the next day, they found more than 60 empty alcohol bottles and cans, along with a half-empty booze bottle and a spent bottle of champagne, on board.

Empty beer and other alcoholic beverage bottles and cans are lined up behind the cockpit of George Pino’s 29-foot Robalo boat on Sept. 5, 2022.

The main investigator wrote in his final report that he did not notice Pino showing any signs of impairment following the crash, and that Pino declined to voluntarily submit blood to test for alcohol because his lawyer wasn’t present.

However, footage from the officer’s body-worn camera, released to the Herald late last month, appears to tell a different story. Pino’s immediate response to being asked to submit blood was, “No. I had two beers.”

His attorney not being present was never brought up, according to any footage released to the Herald.

Based on the officer’s report, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said it could not seek higher charges than the three counts of misdemeanor careless boating filed in August.

The outcome of the investigation outraged the Fernandez and Puig families. The Puigs had already filed a lawsuit against Pino and his wife, Cecilia, who was also on the boat that day, alleging they provided alcohol to all 12 teen girls on the vessel that day.

Katerina ‘Katy’ Puig was seriously injured in a Sept. 4, 2022, boat crash in Biscayne Bay. She is pictured here after being named Dade Soccer Big School Player of the Year, photographed at A.D. Barnes Park in Miami, Florida on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

The Pinos — through court filings in the pending case — denied the accusation.

Both the Fernandezes and Puigs declined to comment for this story. They had previously issued statements criticizing the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigation and the charges ultimately filed by prosecutors.

Luciana Fernandez

The families also took issue with the charges because they note Pino’s narrative as to why he lost control of his boat — that a larger boat heading in his direction threw a wake — was not corroborated by anyone on the boat or in the area that day.

Judge Martinez Tuesday set a status hearing for the case for Oct. 3 at 10 a.m. She said she hoped prosecutors and Pino’s attorneys would be ready for a trial by late October or early November.