Yacht captain stopped trying to flee US after passenger was killed by propeller

MIAMI, Fla. (ABC) -- The captain of a Miami yacht has been detained and is facing a federal charge after he tried to flee the country earlier this month while under investigation in the death of a passenger.

United States Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman has ordered that Mauricio Alvarez, 49, be detained. Alvarez has been charged with misconduct or neglect of a ship officer that resulted in the death of an individual, according to a statement by the Department of Justice released on Thursday.

Raul Menendez, a passenger aboard the 91-foot Miami Vice, was in the waters swimming near the boat on April 1 when Alvarez allegedly engaged the engine in reverse, the DOJ statement states. Menendez was struck by the vessel’s propellers and killed. He was found by dive teams in the water, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

On April 6, Alvarez was arrested at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport while trying to flee the country, the DOJ statement states. According to the criminal complaint, Alvarez told officers during a “consensual phone interview” that he was going to visit family in Orlando. In actuality, he had purchased a Spirit Airlines ticket to Panama, something he never mentioned to officers during the phone interview, according to the complaint.

Airline records show that Alvarez attempted to purchase the ticket to Panama before the call with investigators, but his card was declined, the complaint states. He later completed the purchase after the call, according to the complaint. The ticket had an incorrect date of birth, the complaint states, and it was later discovered that Alvarez had been issued a new passport on April 5.

According to the complaint, Alvarez told federal authorities he was going to Panama to “make a better decision of what to do” because he “was scared of being criminally charged.”

Authorities say Alvarez did not have a United States captain license or any formal training on how to operate a vessel.

The investigation is ongoing.