Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Man charged in Lake Tarpon boating death

Patricia Blankenship was a star softball pitcher at Pasco’s Mitchell High School for four years. “There is no sentencing that is going to make me feel better,” said her mother.

Special to the Times

Patricia Blankenship was a star softball pitcher at Pasco’s Mitchell High School for four years. “There is no sentencing that is going to make me feel better,” said her mother.

Tragedy struck Patricia Blankenship last April in the form of a boat propeller.

The 21-year-old former high school softball star from Holiday was riding on Lake Tarpon with her fiance and two friends when their boat crashed into another one. She was tossed into the water and mauled by the propeller. She later died.

After five months, authorities arrested Jeremy D. Rettman, 32, of Oldsmar, on Wednesday, charging him with vessel homicide. Rettman, who was operating the boat, officials said, had enough alcohol and marijuana in his system to deem him under the influence. He also let his 10-year-old daughter drive while he held the throttle.

On Thursday, he was being held in the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.

Penny Barnett, 42, said it's extremely painful to think back to April 5, the day of her daughter's crash.

That Saturday started off innocuously enough. Rettman headed out on the water about 11 a.m. in a 16-foot Hydrosport. He brought along his 10-year-old daughter and one of his friends, Justin Shields, then 23. They spent the morning and early afternoon tubing and cruising around the lake.

Sometime around 3 or 4 p.m., the boat stopped to pick up Blankenship, who was Shields' fiancee. The group was heading back to the dock at Anderson Park, on the west side of the lake, when the crash occurred. It was about 6:30 p.m, according to the arrest warrant.

Rettman had given his young daughter the wheel to steer while he kept his hand on the throttle, the arrest warrant said. All of a sudden, someone shouted "Boat!" The Hydrosport went over a 21-foot boat at anchor, throwing the three adults into the water.

By the time they were all brought aboard, Blankenship had been mauled by the propeller. Her mother said it chopped into her daughter's arm, cut two arteries, and gashed the left side of her body, breaking all her ribs on that side. She was taken to Tampa General Hospital where she underwent two major surgeries and lost a large amount of blood.

She died 10 days later.

Shields told the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office that the three adults had been smoking marijuana and drinking beer that afternoon. Barnett insists all that happened before her daughter came aboard.

Blood drawn from Rettman after the crash found alcohol levels of 0.193 and 0.195, more than twice the level at which the state presumes intoxication. Rettman also had enough marijuana in his system for the medical examiner to consider him under the influence.

The loss of Blankenship left her family devastated and Rettman's arrest offers no consolation.

"No matter what the sentencing is, no matter what he's sentenced to, at April 15 at exactly 8 p.m. when my daughter took her last breath, me and my family were sentenced to life," Barnett said. "My daughter, she was sentenced to death. There is no sentencing that is going to make me feel better."

Blankenship graduated from Pasco's Mitchell High School in 2004. She was a star pitcher at the school all four years, winning Sunshine Athletic Conference honors, her mother said.

She was very close with her family, and that's what makes her loss so tough.

"I hear so many different stories it's just ridiculous. I'm still searching for the truth on who was driving the boat," Barnett said.

Rettman, the man accused in her death, had a history of arrests for driving-related offenses such as DUI, driving with a suspended or revoked license and reckless driving. If convicted of the second-degree felony, he could face up to 15 years in prison.

Barnett said Rettman's daughter, who shares a June 19 birthday with her own daughter, is also a victim.

"I hope and pray that that little girl is okay with everything that is going on in her little life, down to her father being arrested, down to what she saw on that boat," Barnett said. "It had to be gruesome what that kid saw on that boat and I think about her every day.''

Jonathan Abel can be reached at or (727) 445-4157.

Man charged in Lake Tarpon boating death 09/11/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 3:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas County receives $30 million for beach renourishment

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– While Pinellas beaches continually rank among the best in America, they need help to stay that way.

    The Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $30 million to help with beach renourishment at several Pinellas locations, including including Sand Key, Treasure Island and Upham Beach. This photo from 2014 shows how waves from high tides caused beach erosion at Sunset Beach near Mansions by the Sea condominium complex SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  2. Straz Center parking squeeze infuriates patrons, motivates search for solutions


    TAMPA — When the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts opened 30 years ago, it welcomed just 30,000 patrons its first year.

    Fireworks shoot into the sky over the David A. Straz Jr. Center For The Performing Arts. [SCOTT MCINTYRE, Times]
  3. Video shows naked man who stole swan sculpture in Lakeland, deputies say


    The Polk County Sheriff's Office is searching for a naked man who stole a large black and white swan sculpture from a Lakeland storage facility last weekend.

    The Polk County Sheriff's Office says this naked man stole a large black and white swan sculpture, upper right, from a Lakeland storage facility last weekend. Surveillance video showed the man walking into Lakeland Cold Storage. [Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Fennelly: Dirk Koetter's apology no way to keep this fidget spinning


    TAMPA — It all began with a fidget spinner.

    This tweet from the Bucs, mocking the Falcons' 28-3 lead they lost in the Super Bowl against the Falcons, prompted a public apology from head coach Dirk Koetter, who called it "unprofessional and not smart."
  5. Jeb money trickles into Putnam's bid for governor


    Money from a Jeb Bush super PAC has made its way into Florida’s 2018 governors race.
    A year ago, Bush’s Right to Rise PAC put $1,171 in money