Boat sought in hit-and-run that killed teen wakeboarding in Miami area

The girl was wakeboarding in Key Biscayne Saturday when the incident occurred.

May 13, 2024, 6:55 PM

Authorities in Florida are searching for a boat involved in a fatal hit-and-run that killed a teenager wakeboarding in the Miami area over the weekend.

The victim was wakeboarding near Nixon Beach in Key Biscayne Saturday afternoon when the incident occurred, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is investigating.

The girl -- 15-year-old Ella Adler of Miami Beach -- had fallen in the water while being towed about one mile from shore, Officer George Reynaud, a spokesperson for FWC, told ABC News. She was waiting to be recovered by her boat, wearing a life jacket with her wakeboard still attached to her, when another vessel struck her, he said. She died from her injuries.

"It's a very tragic situation," Reynaud said. "This is an incredibly difficult time."

PHOTO:  Ella Adler is seen in an undated photo.
Ella Adler is seen in an undated photo.
Adler Family

The FWC is urging witnesses or anyone with information, photos or footage who were recreating in the area to come forward.

"FWC officers are making significant progress in this investigation; however, the public's assistance is still needed," the FWC said in a statement on Monday.

PHOTO: Authorities are searching for the boat involved in a deadly waterskiing incident that occurred on May 11, 2024, in Key Biscayne, Florida.
Authorities are searching for the boat involved in a deadly incident that occurred on May 11, 2024, in Key Biscayne, Florida.

The vessel being sought in connection with the incident was described as a center console boat with a light blue hull, possibly blue or dark blue bottom paint and multiple white outboard engines, FWC said. It is believed to be 30 to 40 feet in length, Reynaud.

The boat was last seen heading westbound from Nixon Beach around 4:30 p.m. ET, FWC said.

A reward up to $20,000 is being offered for information in the investigation: FWC and Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers are both offering up to $5,000, while Adler's family is offering a $10,000 reward, Reynaud said.

The victim's parents urged the public to help in finding the person responsible for her death.

"The world lost a star this weekend. Ella was beautiful and shined brightly. In her 15 years she gave us more light than we could have ever dreamed," her parents, Amanda and Matt Adler, said in a statement to ABC News. "While we cope with this unspeakable tragedy, we hope the public will help us find the person who took her from us."

PHOTO:  Ella Adler is seen in an undated photo.
Ella Adler is seen in an undated photo.
Adler family

Ella Adler was a student at Ransom Everglades School, a college prep day school in the Miami area. The school described her as an "outstanding student, a wonderful dancer and an active member of the Jewish Student Association and speech and debate team."

"Our hearts are broken and our community has been devastated by this tragedy," the school said in a statement. "Ella shined in our classrooms and on our stages, and she embodied the mission of Ransom Everglades School."

"We extend our deepest sympathy to her family and our prayers are with all who are mourning her loss. In this time of unspeakable pain, we have been moved by the outpouring of kindness and compassion from the Ransom Everglades community," the statement continued.

Adler was a ballerina who appeared in more than 100 performances with the Miami City Ballet, according to her obituary, which called her a "star" and "force of nature."

"We at Miami City Ballet and the Miami City Ballet School are utterly devastated by the heartbreaking news of this tragic accident," the Miami City Ballet said in a statement. "Ella Adler was not just a beloved student and a magnificent dancer who graced our stage in 'George Balanchine's The Nutcracker'; she was an integral part of our family, radiating potential and promise whose kindness, warmth, and infectious joy were known to all."

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava called Adler a "bright young soul."

"My deepest condolences to the Adler family," the mayor said on X on Monday. "Let's honor her memory by exercising better boat safety, to ensure tragedies like this never happen again. May she rest in peace."

Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated Ella Adler was waterskiing at the time of the incident, based on preliminary information from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It has been updated to state that she was wakeboarding, per the latest from FWC.

ABC News' Rachel DeLima and Jessy Mendoza contributed to this report.