Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Authorities charge Indian Rocks Beach man in fatal water scooter crash

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — After his friend died in a water scooter crash earlier this year, Robert Turnbull went out to sea and helped spread the ashes.

Turnbull hadn't known Victor Vazquez long, but on the evening of March 10, the two Indian Rocks Beach men were riding a personal watercraft that struck a channel marker in the Intracoastal Waterway, just north of the Belleair Causeway.

Both men were thrown from the craft. Vazquez, 40, died a short time later.

This week, authorities issued a warrant for Turnbull's arrest. Recently returned lab results showed Turnbull, who was driving, was intoxicated at the time of the crash, said Assistant State Attorney Holly Grissinger.

Turnbull, 34, turned himself in Wednesday night. Prosecutors have charged him with boating under the influence manslaughter and vessel homicide.

Court records show Turnbull's blood-alcohol content a few hours after the crash was .087, just over the amount at which Florida law presumes a driver to be impaired.

"It was a tragic accident with unintended consequences," said Denis de Vlaming, a Clearwater attorney representing Turnbull.

De Vlaming said Turnbull and Vazquez lived next door to each other in a duplex and had only recently met.

The day of the crash, they'd been out on the water with a group of people. Turnbull was on his watercraft; others were split between two boats.

According to court records, the friends drank at the Tropix bar at Clearwater Pass and were returning to a home in Indian Rocks Beach via the Intracoastal about 7:30 p.m.

Somewhere along the way, the vessels ran aground. Turnbull began ferrying people to shore.

"It was then that Victor said, 'Oh, my God, I left my wallet on the boat,' " de Vlaming said. "He begged my client to take him back."

Turnbull drove. It was already past sundown.

Turnbull told authorities the crash happened about 8:30 p.m. on the way back to shore. He said they'd been going about 40 to 50 miles per hour when they hit something. Investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission later located a broken channel marker.

Turnbull got Vazquez back onto the watercraft and went to shore. Efforts to revive Vazquez were unsuccessful. Turnbull suffered minor injuries.

Turnbull violated navigational rules by not using "all available means" to determine if the risk of a collision existed, court records say. He also should not have been operating a personal watercraft more than 30 minutes after sunset, which was shortly after 6:30 p.m., records say.

De Vlaming said both men's families have been supportive. He said Vazquez's family, who could not be reached Thursday, asked Turnbull to be at the funeral and spread his ashes.

"It surprised everybody that he was at the legal limit," de Vlaming said Thursday.

Turnbull was booked in the Pinellas County Jail and released Thursday night on $50,000 bail.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643.

Authorities charge Indian Rocks Beach man in fatal water scooter crash 08/16/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 16, 2012 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. SPC's Bill Law leaves with pride for the faculty, concern for students — and a story about hotdogs

    College

    ST. PETERSBURG — The local community college had already made a name for itself when William Law Jr. first arrived on campus in the early 1980s as a vice president. Still, the school, then named St. Petersburg Junior College, was just a shadow of the sprawling state college it would later become.

    Bill Law, outgoing St. Petersburg College president, said he is proud of the college cultivating stronger relationships with the community.
  2. Forecast: Pattern of hot, humid air and inland, late-day showers continues across bay area

    Weather

    Storms again will pop up midday around Tampa Bay, but are forecast to mostly stick inland.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day. [WTSP]
  3. UCF suspends fraternity amid sex assault and hazing claims (w/video)

    College

    ORLANDO — A University of Central Florida fraternity has been suspended while the school investigates allegations of sexual assault and hazing.

  4. Florida beats LSU, wins first College World Series title

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — Florida scored four runs in the eighth inning to pull away from LSU, and the Gators beat their SEC rival 6-1 Tuesday night to complete a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals for their first national title in baseball.

    UF’s Nelson Maldonado, left, and Deacon Liput high-five after a run scores.
  5. One killed, five injured in crash on Park Boulevard N in Pinellas Park

    Accidents

    Westbound lanes on Park Boulevard N have reopened at 62nd Way N in Pinellas Park following a fatal crash late Tuesday night.