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Sun City Center boater dies in Lake Dora regatta

Dea Wiseley of Sun City Center “died doing what he loved,” said his wife, Yvonne. For more than 20 years he raced speedboats. He died Sunday at 73 on Lake Dora, in a collision with a friend.

Family photo

Dea Wiseley of Sun City Center “died doing what he loved,” said his wife, Yvonne. For more than 20 years he raced speedboats. He died Sunday at 73 on Lake Dora, in a collision with a friend.

TAMPA — For nearly three decades, Dea Wiseley raced speedboats in Central Florida.

Even after he traded his hydroplane racer for a cabin cruiser, the 73-year-old sought the rush of the water.

On Saturday, Wiseley and his wife left their Sun City Center home and headed to Lake Dora near Orlando, where he would race a friend's boat at the Spring Thunder Regatta for vintage crafts dating to the early 1900s.

The next day, as Wiseley headed to the water, he posed for pictures. He chatted with old friends, including Charles Woodruff, 64, from Jensen Beach. The two had raced boats together on Lake Dora years ago, and shared a passion for adventure.

But when the friends met on the waves Sunday afternoon, something went wrong. Woodruff's boat ran over Wiseley's, ejecting both men from their crafts and killing them instantly.

"All I can say is that he died doing what he loved," said Wiseley's wife, Yvonne Wiseley, 61.

Wiseley lived most of his life in Pinellas County where, for 22 years, he and his wife operated Wiseley Boating Charters in Treasure Island.

Through the 1980s and '90s, Wiseley traveled the state racing his boat, the Warhawk. Once, the boat flipped over during a race, but minor accidents and slow finishes never detoured Wiseley.

Wiseley had one son, Rex, two stepdaughters and seven grandchildren. He was a member of Pasadena Community Church in Pinellas, and most recently attended Sun City Center Methodist Church.

When Wiseley retired, he took up golf and fishing. He became involved with the Old Salt Fishing Club in St. Petersburg, where he held several positions on the board of the saltwater fishing organization. In the summers, he enjoyed teaching his grandchildren how to catch and release fish.

"He was a wonderful man, a great father and grandfather," Yvonne Wiseley said. "Everyone is really going to miss him."

Wiseley and Woodruff were two of the three deaths reported at this weekend's regatta.

During Saturday's events there, a man and a woman were ejected from a vessel during a demonstration lap.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Joy Hill said the woman was rescued in the water, but the man, Mark Van Winkle, 53, of Stuart, was struck by another boat and died.

Hill said that authorities don't know all the details of Sunday's crash involving Wiseley. It could be attributed to wave action, operator error or equipment failure, she said.

"There are numerous reasons why these things happen," Hill said. "That's why we aim to find out."

The weekend regatta typically attracts 8,000 to 10,000 spectators, vendors and participants.

"I took tons of pictures," Yvonne Wiseley said. "I know where he is now, he's still racing."

The Orlando Sentinel contributed to this report Sarah Whitman can be reached at (813) 661-2439 or

Sun City Center boater dies in Lake Dora regatta 03/18/12 [Last modified: Monday, March 19, 2012 7:11am]
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