FWC identifies boater in Key Biscayne hit-and-run that killed Florida teen ballerina

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has identified the person behind the wheel in the South Florida hit-and-run boating death of 15-year-old Ella Adler on Saturday.

Carlos Guillermo Alonso, 78, of Coral Gables was piloting a 42-foot Boston Whaler in Key Biscayne when officials say his boat struck Ella Riley Adler, 15, a ballerina with the Miami Ballet and granddaughter of U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Michael M. Adler. The teen had been wakeboarding behind another boat and was floating in the water, according to an FWC incident report released Wednesday.

The man piloting the boat that hit the girl sped off to the west without stopping, witnesses said. Adler was retrieved by the other boat but died of her injuries.

The vessel is in custody and Alonso is cooperating with the investigation, the FWC said in a release Tuesday.

Investigators said Tuesday it was unclear if Alonso knew Adler was there or was hit. It is unknown if alcohol was a factor. In a statement from Alonso's attorney Lauren Krasnoff, shared by Local10.com, Krasnoff said Alonso was unaware he hit anybody and does not drink.

"I will tell you that Bill, who has been boating for 50 years and is a very experienced boater who knows these waters, was out boating by himself on Saturday," Krasnoff said in the statement. "He has no knowledge whatsoever of having been involved in this accident. If he hit Ella that day, he certainly did not know it. Had Bill thought he hit anything, he absolutely would have stopped. But he did not at any point think that he had hit anything, let alone a person.

"He docked his boat in plain sight right behind his house," she said, "and did not even know there was an accident on the water that day until officers showed up at his door."

Witnesses or anyone with video footage or information should contact the FWC at 888-404-FWCC or 888-404-3922 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS or 305-471-8477.

A total reward of up to $20,000 — $10,000 from Adler's family and a combined $10,000 from FWC and Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers — is being offered for information that leads to an arrest and successful prosecution of the driver of the hit-and-run boat incident.

What happened in the boating death of Ella Adler?

At about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11 (the day before Mother's Day), Adler and several others had been enjoying some recreational boating near the Nixon Beach Sandbar in Biscayne Bay, according to the incident report. Adler was wakeboarding behind a 42-foot 2017 Hanse Fjord yacht at the same time as an unidentified female on a wake surfboard.

The two people being towed fell into the water at different times and locations, the incident report said. Adler was wearing a life jacket and had the wakeboard still attached to her feet, an FWC official told NBC6 in Miami, when she was struck by a 42-foot 2020 Boston Whaler.

A witness said the boat did not appear to swerve or slow down when it hit the girl. The yacht towing her immediately spun around back to where she was and began broadcasting distress calls, the witness told NBC6.

Where was Ella Adler killed? Where is Nixon Beach Sandbar in Florida?

The Nixon Beach Sandbar is located in Biscayne Bay, Florida, west of Hurricane Harbor near Miami.

It's a popular destination for recreational boaters and fishing for its white sands and clear shallow waters, and it "turns into a wild party spot every weekend" full of yachts and catamarans, according to the boating site sail.me.

The area was named for former president Richard M. Nixon, who owned a home overlooking the water nearby.

Who is Ella Riley Adler of Florida?

Ella Adler was a freshman at Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove and a ballerina with the Miami City Ballet. She is the granddaughter of Michael M. Adler, the current U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, according to the Miami Herald.

"We are heartbroken," the school said in a Facebook post Monday morning. "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."

Adler appeared in more than 100 performances with the Miami Ballet, including "The Nutcracker," according to her Legacy.com obituary. In school, she performed on the dance team, acted in the school play "Chicago" and was a member of the Ransom Everglades Jewish Students Association.

"You were taken from us way too soon, and the world has been robbed of all the things you could have achieved," her father, Matthew, wrote in a letter read during a funeral service at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach on Monday, the Miami Herald reported. "But you will always be here with us and your friends and family will carry your energy and spirit forever.”

First Lady Jill Biden paid her condolences in person Tuesday, according to a statement from the family.

"We are honored that the First Lady paid a shiva call to our family during this time of immense pain. We are touched by their support and love and we are proud to call the President and First Lady our friends for over 40 years," they said.

The girl's great-aunt Karen Adler started working in President Joe Biden's D.C. office in 1973 when he was still a junior senator from Delaware, according to Jewish Insider, and served as his national finance chair in 2008. Her brother Michael was confirmed as Ambassador to Belgium in 2021.

Adler is survived by her parents Amanda and Matthew, her brother Jaden, and her sister Adalynn, grandparents Judy and Michael, and Susan and Michael Klaiman, along with several aunts, uncles and cousins.

Natalie Neysa Alund, USA TODAY, contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Ella Adler Miami boating death: Boater IDed in Florida hit-and-run