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Weather blamed for drowning off Treasure Island

TREASURE ISLAND — A 17-year-old from Lake Wales drowned off Treasure Island Saturday afternoon in an incident police blamed on the day's stormy weather. Miguel "Anthony" Vasquez perished despite a frantic rescue attempt at the scene.

At almost the same time, another rescue ended happily just north, off Anclote Key, as an Ocala father and his 4-year-old son were plucked to safety by a Coast Guard helicopter after spending two chilly hours at sea, officials said.

Treasure Island police officials said Vasquez could not swim, but was standing in the water with a friend when the approaching storm caused waves to suddenly kick up. The sea drew Vasquez in, and his friend made it to shore to summon help. Swimmers hauled Vasquez in about half an hour later, and paramedics tried to revive him. He was pronounced dead at Palms of Pasadena Hospital at 2:48 p.m., police said.

To the north, Coast Guard officers in Clearwater received a distress signal from 300 yards north of Anclote Key at about 2:15 p.m. Chris Swinney, 37, and his son, Victor, 4, were in their small boat when stormy weather flipped the vessel, officials said. Swinney sent a distress signal from his VHF radio, officials said.

A rescue boat spotted the pair in the water around 3 p.m., and they were picked up by a Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter about 4 p.m., officials said. Swinney and his son, both of whom were wearing life vests, were cold, bruised and tired, but in good condition, officials said.

Saturday afternoon's storms produced 40- to 70-mph winds in the Tampa Bay area, said Eric Oglesby, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. Gusts of 70 mph were reported in Indian Rocks Beach, Pinellas Park and at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

There is a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms this morning, he said.

Progress Energy reported about 13,000 customers without power in the bay area as of about 3:30 p.m., with outages scattered throughout Pinellas County. Tampa Electric reported about 8,000 customers had no power, with most outages in Tampa.

Weather blamed for drowning off Treasure Island 05/14/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 14, 2011 10:53pm]
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