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Anchor lodged in man's head

Aboard their 20-foot boat, the three longtime friends maneuvered the choppy waters off Anna Maria Island, searching for a new fishing hole.

Suddenly, the boat hit a big wave, tossing a loose anchor and nylon line into the water.

As the boat kept moving forward, the line became taut, snapping the 10-pound anchor out of the water and over the the stern of the boat.

The anchor struck 61-year-old Maurice Cullinane in the head, with one of its two points embedding itself 2{ inches into the base of his skull.

Cullinane, a retired Washington, D.C., police chief, was flown by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg on Monday with the anchor still in the back of his head. He remained in stable condition Tuesday in the neurological intensive care unit after seven hours of surgery to remove the anchor.

"It was really a freak accident," said Capt. Jim McCallister of the Florida Marine Patrol. "It's about as strange as the barracuda jumping out of the water and biting somebody in the arm."

Marine Patrol investigators say Cullinane is lucky to be alive.

Cullinane had been fishing with friends J. C. Ellis of Holmes Beach and Forest Jarrett of Leicester, N.C., in the 20-foot Wellcraft.

They dropped anchor for a while near Anna Maria Island, then decided to find another spot. They pulled up the anchor, tied to 20 feet of nylon rope, leaving it on the bow as they headed out.

The waterway was choppy, and the boat hit a wave. The anchor went overboard without the men knowing it.

The boat continued forward, pulling all 20 feet of rope until the line was taut. The nylon stretched, becoming a spring that jerked the anchor out of the water and over the stern.

Cullinane was sitting in left side of the stern. The flying anchor stuck in the left rear of his head.

Jarrett, 65, tended the wound, keeping Cullinane calm so he would not jiggle the anchor.

Ellis, 64, radioed ahead to rescue workers, guiding the boat toward a dock behind his house at 519 70th St. on Holmes Beach.

There, paramedics bandaged the wound and tied the anchor to Cullinane.

"They secured it to his body," Capt. McCallister said. "You don't know what it's going to take out with it when you pull it out. You want to be very careful until you can have it surgically removed."

Doctors operated on Cullinane at Bayfront before placing him in the Intensive Care Unit. His family and friends, sitting in a waiting room, did not want to talk about the accident late Tuesday.

But word of the mishap already had reached Washington, where Cullinane often has been described as a quiet, undramatic man.

During his three years as police chief, Cullinane had a reputation for his administrative efficiency.

He retired in February 1978, citing a circulatory problem around his knee that doctors said was the result of being kicked and hit with a brick during demonstrations in the late 1960s.

At his retirement banquet that drew 1,000 people, his successor paid tribute with a rhyme.

"May the sun always be in your face," the new chief said. "I hear Florida is a nice place . . ."