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Boat driver cleared in death of teenager

Although a boat operator "apparently struck" a passenger in a July Fourth accident, investigators say they found no evidence of foul play.

St. Pete Beach police Officer R.L. Micklitsch cited "operator inattention" as a factor in the accident that claimed the life of Joey Turner, 19, a St. Petersburg Catholic High School graduate.

Turner's body was found in the water behind the Don CeSar Beach Resort on July 5.

"Deceased jumped from vessel and was apparently struck by same vessel," Micklitsch wrote in a Florida Boating Accident Investigation report.

Turner was celebrating the holiday with friends, including Lance Skipper, 20, a St. Pete Beach resident and driver of the 26-foot boat.

But investigators could not prove definitively that Skipper's boat hit Turner, said St. Pete Beach police Chief David Romine.

"We found nothing criminal," Romine said Wednesday. "It was an accident by virtue of him jumping off the boat."

Turner's family members, however, say they think Skipper is at fault. "I think he knew that he hit him," said Deborah Edney, Turner's aunt.

The accident report says about 9:15 p.m. July 4, Skipper motored to an anchored swim buoy behind the 3800 block of Gulf Boulevard. Turner wanted to swim to shore and jumped off the boat, the report said. Skipper then traveled in reverse about 40 to 50 feet and turned right at a slow speed.

Skipper "saw an unknown item in the water" and backed to the area, the report said. But he did not see anything and left.

The medical examiner listed Turner's cause of death as drowning, with blunt head trauma and intoxication as contributing factors. The manner of death was listed as an accident. Turner's blood-alcohol level was 0.16 percent, police said.