The family of a 20-year-old man who drowned after jumping off of a cruise boat in Miami, Florida has filed a lawsuit against the charter boat company. Enoch Tong jumped off the boat while it was anchored in the Biscayne Bay on March 18, 2023, and drowned after being caught in a rip tide.
According to NBC 6 South Florida News, Tong and 12 other passengers boarded the yacht Victoria, which is also dubbed the “booze cruise” at the Jones Boat Yard at 3399 Northwest South River Drive and was allowed to drink despite being under 21.
Video of Tong’s last moments also was shared with the news outlet by the family. One of the attorneys for the family, Pedro Echarte, said drinking was encouraged on the cruise boat.
“Drinking alcohol was not only tolerated but it was encouraged,” said Echarte. “Enoch was only 20 years old that day. Not old enough to legally drink when he lost his life during that charter.”
Tong’s friends tried to save him by throwing life preservers, but they were unsuccessful as the strong rip tides and winds took him further and further away from the boat.
“We do know that his friends did throw life preservers,” Miami Fire Rescue Lt. Pete Sanchez told NBC 6 in March. “They tried to help him but, unfortunately, the current was just too strong.”
Family attorneys claim “professionals” on the boat should have been able to save Tong and accused the boat’s staff of failing to warn Tong of the dangers of jumping off the boat.
The lawsuit also accuses the boating company of “Allowing unqualified and untrained employees, agents, contractors, masters, officers, crew members, or seamen to operate the Victoria,” failing to implement and use reasonable and proper safety policies and procedures for its passengers and “Other acts of negligence not yet discovered.”
Tong could swim, but the strong winds and rip tide currents prevented him from being able to stay afloat, and the lawsuit contends that the boat’s crew failed to hold a safety briefing or alert the passengers about the hazardous water conditions.
“When they saw Enoch struggling, instead of a crew member putting on a life jacket, jumping in the water with a life jacket to give to Enoch, she took minutes to find a life ring,” said another family attorney, Joshua Padron. “Instead of jumping with the life ring she threw the life ring in the water, five feet away from the boat.”
“The amount of time is staggering before the captain even realized what was happening,” he added.
Tong’s body wasn’t recovered until the following day. His mother, Mattie Bess, said she doesn’t want another family to go through what she has.
“He was very honorable. I know a lot of mothers and parents say how great their kids are, but Enoch was a great child and, um, we’re really going to miss him,” said Bess. “I just hope this doesn’t have to happen to another family.”
The family is seeking damages in excess of $50,000 “exclusive of interest, costs, and attorney’s fees.”