Victims in Utah boat sinking have ties to St. Petersburg Police Department

ST. PETERSBURG — Three couples who sank in a boat in Lake Powell in Utah while on vacation Saturday all had St. Petersburg ties. The three men on the boat, one of whom was still missing Monday, are retired officers from the St. Petersburg Police Department.

"I think we're all in a bit of shock," said St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon. "You don't expect a tragedy like this, for someone to leave the organization and have this happen."

The three couples were in a 20-foot speedboat in windy conditions on the lake, which spans northern Arizona and southern Utah. The boat took on water and sank Saturday during a windstorm that produced blowing sand and high waves, according to National Park Service spokesman Brian Sweatland.

Searchers recovered the body of 61-year-old Katherine Prescott, who lived at 890 Amelia Court, but have still not found her husband, 58-year-old Robert, who retired as a burglary detective almost two years ago.

Crews also recovered the body of 57-year-old Mary Anne Taranto. She recently moved to Prescott Valley, Ariz., with her husband, Terry Taranto, 54, who retired as a burglary detective on Jan. 3, according to police. His body was found Monday morning.

James and Heather Brady of St. Pete Beach survived the accident and were treated for hypothermia, according to an official with the National Park Service. James, 57, retired from the Police Department five years ago. The couple could not be reached for comment Monday.

Robert Prescott's parents, James and Martha, who live next door on Amelia Court, were distraught and waiting for more news Monday morning. Their son and Katherine went on a two-week trip with their friends, they said, and were to return this past weekend.

When James and Martha Prescott heard someone at the door about 3 a.m. Sunday, they thought it was their son and he had misplaced his key. Instead, it was police officers.

"We knew something terrible had happened," Martha Prescott said.

Katherine Prescott was the daughter of Charles J. Kaniss, a former Pinellas County elections supervisor and St. Petersburg City Council member who died three years ago. Katherine was active in local social groups and charities, Martha Prescott said.

Rescue workers still were searching Monday for Robert Prescott at Lake Powell, Sweatland said. St. Petersburg police have been in touch with law enforcement officials in Utah, trying to get more news.

"You just hope and pray for a good outcome," Harmon said. "But based on the circumstances, it's hard to expect it to be good."

Emily Nipps can be reached at (727) 893-8452 or nipps@sptimes.com.

Victims in Utah boat sinking have ties to St. Petersburg Police Department 04/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 30, 2009 2:58pm]

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