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Boater rescues Tampa man lost in bay for 2 hours

A father teaching his son to water ski became separated from his family's boat and spent two hours drifting in Tampa Bay on Friday night before he was found.

The man's rescue came not from the nine emergency watercraft, eight divers or two helicopters searching for him, but from a boater who volunteered to help.

The 40-year-old Tampa man, whom officials would identify only by his first name of Bob, was spotted by the boater around 10 p.m. drifting between the Howard Frankland Bridge and the Courtney Campbell Parkway, said Coast Guard spokesman Gene Maestas.

The man and his family had been boating in Tampa Bay, and he was in the water with his 11-year-old son, teaching him how to ski, Maestas said. His son stood up on the skis, and the man's wife drove the boat away.

"She claimed that the son had been skiing 10 minutes, and then when she returned to the spot where she thought her husband was, he was gone," Maestas said.

The wife, whose name also was not released, immediately drove to another boat that had a radio and called 911 about 8 p.m. The woman then drove her own boat around the bay for about 90 minutes looking for her husband until she ran out of gas, Maestas said.

A strong current and wind made it difficult for the man _ who was wearing a life vest _ to swim far.

After the boater found him, he was reunited, unharmed, with his wife and two children at the west end of the Howard Frankland Bridge.

He was "cold, tired but fine" according to Tampa fire District Chief Dennis Jones. An ambulance took the man and his family home, Jones said. They declined to speak with reporters.

_ JEFFREY GETTLEMAN

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