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Two killed, one hurt in Tampa Bay boating accidents

Two people were killed and another critically injured in a pair of boating incidents over the weekend.

Two missing boaters were found dead Sunday morning after a nightlong search that began with the discovery of a fire-damaged boat 1 mile south of MacDill Air Force Base.

The two bodies were found a half-hour apart before 11 a.m.

In a separate incident — this one on Lake Tarpon in Pinellas County — a 21-year-old woman nearly lost her arm when the boat she was in crashed into another vessel, then nearly came down on top of her.

Patricia Blankenship, 21, of Holiday remained in critical condition Sunday evening at Tampa General Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The boat in the Tampa incident belonged to Alton Earl Jones of Brandon, who owned and operated A.J. Deep Sea Fishing Inc. His body was found near the main ship channel with his life jacket partially on. Sunday, he would have turned 56.

The body of Mary Hanusek, 54, also wearing a life jacket, was found in the water near Snell Isle in St. Petersburg.

Petty Officer Robert Simpson said the Coast Guard picked up a distress call from a boater speaking Spanish at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The Coast Guard deployed a boat and a helicopter, and found the burned 37-foot vessel with no one aboard at 9 p.m.

Rescue crews from the Pinellas and Hillsborough Sheriff's Offices, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tampa Police Department and MacDill Air Force Base joined the search.

In the Lake Tarpon accident, the Pinellas Sheriff's Office said Blankenship, her husband and two friends were in a 16-foot hydrosport when it collided with an anchored, 21-foot vessel on the lake's west side about 6:30 p.m.

Blankenship was thrown from the boat as it soared over the anchored vessel. The hydrosport landed nearby, investigators said. She had multiple injuries including a nearly severed left arm.

She was flown to Tampa General by helicopter and went into surgery, sheriff's officials said.

Blankenship's husband, Justin Shields, 23, friend Jeremy Rettman, 31, and his daughter Amanda, 10, both of Oldsmar, were not injured in the wreck, investigators said. Officials said alcohol was a factor.

Times staff writer Mike Donila contributed to this report.

Two killed, one hurt in Tampa Bay boating accidents 04/06/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 14, 2008 9:08am]
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