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Drunken Indian Rocks Beach man rescued offshore won't face charges

BELLEAIR BEACH — A drunken man on a pool float who set off a multiagency response when he lost consciousness and drifted a mile out in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday will not face any charges, authorities said Thursday.

Deputies determined Jerry Whipple, 48, of Indian Rocks Beach did not commit a crime, said Cecilia Barreda, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

But he definitely wasn't using good judgment, said U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer First Class Mariana O'Leary.

"Alcohol, hot sun and being out in the water don't mix in any good way," she said.

The Coast Guard, which rescued Whipple about 12:20 p.m., will not seek monetary compensation for the rescue.

Coast Guard duties include rescue missions such as this one Wednesday, and in this case, O'Leary said, "he was truly in need of help."

Whipple was found after a good Samaritan on a boat called in to report an unconscious man floating offshore. Authorities believe he was in the water for three to four hours before he was rescued, Barreda said.

Whipple, who was wearing a life jacket, regained consciousness while rescuers were on the scene. He was taken to Largo Medical Center and released later Wednesday.

Reached at his gulf-front apartment Thursday afternoon, Whipple declined to discuss specifics of the incident, except to say that he did not suffer from a medical issue and had "just too much to drink."

Court records show Whipple was convicted of cocaine posession and sale in 2006 and sentenced to a year in jail to be served on work release.

O'Leary said Wednesday that Whipple was lucky he didn't float out to sea, never to be seen again.

When asked if he agreed, Whipple said, "Oh, yeah."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow @sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Drunken Indian Rocks Beach man rescued offshore won't face charges 06/24/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 24, 2010 8:06pm]
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