Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Public safety

Death of man who fell off yacht near Vinoy ruled a drowning

ST. PETERSBURG — The death of a man who fell into the bay while stepping off a yacht in January has been ruled a drowning, according to the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office.

A police investigation has been closed, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz.

James J. Young, 49, had been socializing with four other people aboard the yacht Pure Knight Life about 6 a.m. on Jan. 18 near the Renaissance Vinoy Resort. He tried to step from the boat onto the dock.

He slipped and fell into the water, hitting his head on the way in, police said. It wasn't clear if that knocked him unconscious.

Young had a blood-alcohol level of 0.239, nearly three times above the 0.08 level at which Florida law considers a person impaired. He also had cocaine in his system, the medical examiner said.

Multidrug toxicity, cardiovascular disease and blunt head trauma contributed to his death, the medical examiner said. He had superficial scrapes and a bruise on his scalp.

After the incident, Young's family hired an Orlando personal injury lawyer to investigate the case.

"The family had a lot of questions early on surrounding the circumstances of his death," said Eric H. Faddis of Faddis & Faddis.

He said they have not finished their investigation.

"It appears so far to be accidental," he said.

Three others on the boat, including Jannus Live owner Jeff Knight, 49, who also owns the vessel, saw Young fall. They pulled him back aboard quickly, but he was unconscious, Puetz said. They called 911 and Young was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

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.

The night before, the party of five had been downtown. They later moved onto the boat, which was docked in the Vinoy Yacht Basin next to the hotel at 501 Fifth Ave. NE.

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

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