Sunday, May 20, 2018
Public safety

Authorities identify Indian Rocks Beach man killed in personal watercraft accident

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Two men were riding a personal watercraft after sunset when they hit something in the water, authorities said, tossing them into the Intracoastal Waterway.

The driver found his unconscious passenger and headed to shore. But efforts to revive him along the way, and again at their home more than a mile from the accident scene, failed.

Victor Vazquez, 40, of Indian Rocks Beach died after the Saturday night crash.

Vazquez was aboard a watercraft owned and piloted by Robert W. Turnbull, 34, around 8:30 p.m. when it struck something — yet to be identified — in the Intracoastal Waterway just north of the Belleair Causeway, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman said Sunday.

Vazquez and Turnbull were thrown from the craft.

Turnbull managed to pull an unresponsive Vazquez from the water and bring him by boat to shore behind a home at 2507 Bay Blvd. in Indian Rocks Beach, south of the causeway.

A neighbor, Al Bellwood, said the two had recently moved to the Bay Boulevard duplex. Rescue crews could not revive Vazquez when he arrived onshore at house. Turnbull suffered minor injuries.

Both men were wearing life jackets, according to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Although a nearly full moon illuminated the Intracoastal, the two were riding on a water scooter well after the sun had gone down — which is prohibited by state law.

The Saturday night crash is at least the second personal watercraft fatality so far this year in the Tampa Bay area to occur after dark.

On a Saturday in late January, a Lutz man was killed and a woman was injured when two personal watercrafts collided around 3 a.m., on Lake Hobbs in northern Hillsborough County. Neither was wearing a life jacket.

Florida law prohibits piloting a personal watercraft from half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise.

Records show Turnbull has state registrations for a 10-foot fiberglass personal watercraft and a 31-foot cabin motorboat.

He could not be reached Sunday for comment.

Times staff writer Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

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