Boat fitting description of 15-year-old girl killed in Florida hit-and-run located, victim identified

Authorities on Tuesday continued to search for the person who fatally struck a girl with a boat as she waterskied in South Florida over the weekend and identified the victim as 15-year-old Ella Adler from Miami Beach.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials also announced officers had found a vessel that matches the boat witnesses said struck the girl Saturday.

“FWC officers have identified a vessel that fits the description and it is in their custody,” a statement released by the agency reads. “The owner of the vessel is cooperating with the investigation.”

The fatal crash took place in waters off Key Biscayne.

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Ella Adler was skiing when she fell in water

According to a preliminary investigation by the FWC, Ella fell in the ocean near Nixon Beach while being towed about a mile from shore and was struck by another vessel at 4:30 p.m.

“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Ella Adler during this incredibly difficult time,” Arielle Callender, a FWC spokesperson, told USA TODAY Tuesday.

The beach is in Miami-Dade County about 7 miles south of downtown Miami.

While waiting to be recovered by her boat, another vessel struck her and fled the scene, officials said. Ella, who wore a life jacket, died from her injuries.

Officials with FWC described the vessel that struck as a center console boat with a light blue hull with multiple white outboard engines and may have blue or dark blue bottom paint.

That boat did not stop and was last seen heading west from Nixon Beach, the FWC reported early Tuesday.

“The FWC and its officers have called in additional resources from other parts of the state and have worked around the clock to find the vessel involved in the accident,” FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto released in a statement Tuesday after the suspect vessel was located.

Officials did not say whether anyone had been arrested or charged in connection to the fatal hit-and-run as of Tuesday.

They also did not say where or when they located the suspect vessel.

“While significant progress has been made, this investigation remains open,” the statement reads.

Barreto said the agency continues to ask the public for help in the investigation.

‘A star … a force of nature’

Ella’s obituary described the girl as a star.

“She was a force of nature, and when she was near, everyone felt a gravitational pull toward her,” it reads.

“We are heartbroken as we say goodbye to our beautiful niece, Ella,” the girl’s aunt, Cristina Mas Adler, of Coral Gables, posted in a tribute Monday on Facebook. “She brought so much joy, laughter, and love into our lives. I love you Ella Bella.”

“She loved to dance, she loved her friends, and most of all she loved her family,” her obituary reads. “Ella was proud to be Jewish and was a member of the Ransom Everglades Jewish Students Association. She was the great-granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. She loved Israel and came from a long line of Jewish leaders with a strong commitment to faith and tikkun olam. She wore her identity proudly and loudly, just like her parents.”

Ella is survived by her parents, Amanda and Matthew Adler, and her younger siblings Jaden and Adalynn, and many other relatives.

Ballerina Ella Adler ‘shined in our classrooms and on our stages’

Ella, a ballerina, attended Ransom Everglades School in Miami.

“We are heartbroken,” the school, where Adler studied, posted on Facebook. “Ella Adler ’27 shined in our classrooms and on our stages, and she embodied the mission of Ransom Everglades School. We wish peace and comfort to her family.”

$20,000 reward being offered for info leading to suspect’s arrest

A $20,000 reward − $10,000 from Ella’s family and a combined $10,000 from FWC and Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers − is being offered for information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of the hit-and-run suspect.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact those agencies.

Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on X @nataliealund.

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