MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (WPLG/CNN) - Investigators are working to determine what caused the deaths of two close friends whose car fell off a Florida ferry as it left the dock and sank into the water.
Police say the bodies of driver 63-year-old Emma Afra and passenger 75-year-old Viviane Brahms were recovered Wednesday from the waters of Government Cut, a manmade shipping channel between Miami Beach and Fisher Island in Florida.
The women were killed after their 2019 Mercedes-Benz somehow fell off the Fisher Island Ferry on Tuesday afternoon.
Divers searched through the night to find the car, inside of which were the victims’ bodies.
A medical examiner will determine their causes of death.
Afra was from Miami Beach, and Brahms was from Harrison, New York. Those in South Florida who knew Afra are remembering her as someone who cared deeply about her community. She volunteered her time and money with Kristi House, a children’s advocacy center that deals with children and trauma.
“Emma was very philanthropic. She had a strong desire to give back to the community,” Kristi House CEO Amanda Altman said.
Investigators are now trying to determine what caused the car to fall off the ferry, which is used to shuttle residents and guests of the private island to and from the mainland.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez says he’s watching the investigation closely.
“I want to know how in the world it got over,” he said. “I want to take a look at the entire operation and make changes to make sure that ferry system is absolutely safe.”
The U.S. Coast Guard monitors a total of five Fisher Island ferries, which operate around the clock.
Safety measures were already happening on board the ferries Wednesday as workers were spotted placing tire chocks in front of vehicles. They were also asking drivers to engage their parking brakes, but very little still separates the cars from the water.
It’s unclear if tire chocks were in use when the victims’ car went overboard.
“The Pelican,” which was involved in Tuesday’s incident, was inspected just last month. Inspectors focus on the vessel’s stability, condition of the hulls, lifesaving equipment and emergency plans.