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Man dies after fall from yacht in St. Petersburg; police suspect accidental drowning

James J. Young, 49, was with friends aboard the yacht Pure Knight Life,  which is docked in the Vinoy Yacht Basin in St. Petersburg.

DIRK SHADD | Times

James J. Young, 49, was with friends aboard the yacht Pure Knight Life, which is docked in the Vinoy Yacht Basin in St. Petersburg.

ST. PETERSBURG — A night out turned to tragedy early Wednesday morning when a man died after falling into the bay while trying to step off a yacht, police said.

James J. Young, 49, had been socializing with four other people aboard the yacht Pure Knight Life at about 6 a.m. Wednesday near the Renaissance Vinoy Hotel when he tried to step from the boat onto the dock.

As he did, he slipped and fell into the water, hitting his head on the way in, said St. Petersburg Police spokesman Mike Puetz.

"He may have gone unconscious," Puetz said. "If that happened, he could have taken water into his lungs rather rapidly."

Three others on the boat, including Jannus Live owner Jeff Knight, 49, who owns the vessel, saw Young fall. They pulled him back aboard quickly, but Young was unconscious, Puetz said.

"They all went in after him," Puetz said. "They tried to resuscitate him. They could see he wasn't breathing."

They called 911. Young was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead. Police said the death appears to be an accidental drowning, pending results from the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office. Young's family could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In addition to Young and Knight, others on the boat were Francis Whitty, 32, Olivia Catanese, 21, and Young's roommate, Robert Ashbrook, Puetz said.

On Tuesday night, the party of five had been downtown. They later moved onto the boat, which was docked next to the hotel at 501 Fifth Ave. NE.

Puetz said those aboard the yacht told police they "had been partying."

"They were all together. They were all consuming alcohol," Puetz said. "They told detectives they had been to several locations downtown that night and then went to the boat."

Knight and the others on the boat couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Reach Kameel Stanley at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643. Reach Marissa Lang at mlang@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386.

Man dies after fall from yacht in St. Petersburg; police suspect accidental drowning 01/18/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 10:43pm]
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