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Florida airboat flips sending 9 passengers into gator-infested waters, operator arrested

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An airboat tour in the Florida Everglades capsized sending passengers overboard on Friday, officials say. This happened when the airboat’s driver took a sharp turn to try to see an alligator in the water, according to multiple reports.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said three units responded to a waterway near Coopertown The Original Airboat Tour in the Everglades Friday afternoon. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, nine people and the operator all fell into the water when the boat took a quick turn.

By time MDFR arrived, everyone had climbed out of the water, and only one patient was treated for injuries on the scene.

But the boat’s operator was arrested after FWC said he did not have the proper documentation necessary to operate the boat. His employer, Coopertown, did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment Monday morning.

This is a 2021 file photo of an airboat seen hovering over Everglades wetland in Everglades National Park, Florida. On Friday March 29, a Florida Everglades airboat capsized sending passengers overboard in gator-infested waters, officials say.

This is a 2021 file photo of an airboat seen hovering over Everglades wetland in Everglades National Park, Florida. On Friday March 29, a Florida Everglades airboat capsized sending passengers overboard in gator-infested waters, officials say.

Miami tour accidents: More than a dozen injured after tour boat and charter boat crash in Miami waters

Boat passengers say they were afraid of alligators in water, reports state

Passengers told Local 10 the boat operator was trying to get a closer look at a nearby alligator when the airboat flipped.

“My first thought was panic, I was afraid for my wife and family members, and then I thought about the alligator,” passenger Jose Maldonado told Local 10.

NBC Miami said the boat was partially submerged in the water and some passengers were standing on top waiting for help.

Alligator mating season runs from early April until the end of June, when the Sunshine State sees more activity and they become more aggressive.

Contributing: Lianna Norman, USA TODAY NETWORK – Florida

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Florida airboat capsizes, passengers fall into waters with alligators

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