Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Public safety

Boating accidents claim two Tampa men within days

TAMPA — Within two days, two Tampa men lost their lives in separate boating accidents.

Both men had experience on the water, their families said. Both were having fun with loved ones at the time of their deaths. Neither wore a life jacket.

Now their families — one in Tarpon Springs, the other in Utica, N.Y. — struggle to cope with the loss as officials investigate the men's deaths.

Christopher Zutes, 28, was riding a water scooter and hanging out on his boat with friends on the Fourth of July. On his way to a marina Wednesday evening, his 20-foot flats boat hit something on the east side of Old Tampa Bay. The impact threw him overboard, where he was struck by his own vessel. Divers recovered his body six hours later.

Stephen Aceto, 41, a father of two who worked as a senior financial analyst, was aboard a 20-foot powerboat on Thursday that struck the concrete base of a buoy at Oneida Lake near Utica, N.Y. Aceto, his brother and father were killed in the crash.

In Tampa, the Hillsborough County medical examiner's office said Monday that Zutes' death was caused by accidental drowning.

Zutes, a senior field engineer, also sustained brain concussions "due to blunt impact to the head," said medical examiner spokesman Dick Bailey.

Zutes' family held services at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs on Sunday. He was buried at Cycadia Cemetery Monday.

About 1,300 miles away, Carolyn Aceto, Stephen's mother, was home in Utica on Monday with her only remaining son.

On July 5, Anthony Aceto, 66, and his sons Stephen, Timothy and Anthony, took the boat to have dinner across the lake. On their way back near Sylvan Beach about 10 p.m., fireworks distracted them. Their boat slammed into the buoy. All four were thrown off the vessel. Anthony, the 39-year-old son, was rescued by a friend and sustained a broken shoulder and cracked ribs. The bodies of his father and brothers were recovered the next day.

The family spent a lot of time on the lake while the brothers were growing up.

"They knew that lake like the back of their hand," Carolyn said. "It was just a freak accident."

Born and raised in Utica, Stephen Aceto moved to Florida about 10 years ago. He got married and had two kids, an 8-year-old son, Grayson, and a 5-year-old daughter, Piper. He divorced, but stayed in Florida, where he worked at Tampa General Hospital since 2006.

Last week, Stephen, his kids, and girlfriend, Krista Ziesman, arrived in Utica. They were among the 50 family members who gathered for the holiday.

It was Piper and Grayson's first trip to New York.

"They were having a ball up here," Carolyn said, her voice quivering. "And then they go home empty-handed."

The family plans to hold the Acetos' memorial service in a New York on Wednesday.

Information from the Associated Press and Times staff writer John Barry contributed to this report.

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