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CRASH, THEN HEROICS ON LAKE TARPON

Fellow boaters spring to action after a man is flung at high speed.

The man and his yellow speed boat raced past Thomas Crouch as he wake-boarded on Lake Tarpon with his friend and their dads Sunday morning.

Typical sunny day. Calm waters.

Then at 9:20 a.m., Crouch, 17, and other boaters saw that boat turn the day nearly tragic.

Zooming at upward of 70 mph, the boat went airborne, flipped end over end and flung out its 65-year-old driver, Robert Gollobin, witnesses and authorities said.

The boat hit the lake with a wallop, and Crouch knew Gollobin's life was in danger.

"He looked like a rag doll," said Crouch, a Largo resident.

From 300 yards away on the northeast side of the lake, Crouch's friend Richie Dunphy, 18, of Palm Harbor immediately fired up his dad's 23-foot, blue-and-white ski boat and raced to reach Gollobin. Crouch, picked up by another boater, was catching up.

His dad, Brad Crouch, 52, shucked his hat, shirt and belongings and jumped from the boat into the 12-foot waters, with 46-year-old Bill Dunphy behind him. In less than a minute, they reached Gollobin, a Port Richey man familiar to regulars at Lake Tarpon.

On the boat, Richie, 18, dialed 911. They wondered what to do.

A moaning Gollobin wanted out of the water, but what if Gollobin's spine was hurt? Would they injure him more?

Gollobin, fading in and out of lucidity, couldn't correctly tell them the color or his boat or his truck, which was parked near the A.L. Anderson Park boat ramp.

EMS cleared that up: Bring him to shore.

The Crouches pulled him onto the swimming deck with Bill Dunphy's help. Gollobin's left leg was gashed and bleeding. His face was bruised and his eye swollen. His right hip appeared dislocated. His pain was so great, they couldn't drive their boat faster than 8 mph.

"It looked like Mike Tyson got a hold of him," Richie Dunphy said.

But Gollobin had one thing going for him: his life jacket, which also included a neck support and a body harness that kept him above water, the Crouches and Dunphys said.

Once aboard, it took 10 minutes to reach the private Lansbrook Lakefront Park's boat launch. Medics already were there.

Minutes later, a Bayflite emergency helicopter landed in the cozy East Lake neighborhood. Gollobin was flown to Bayfront Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said. As of 10 p.m., he was listed in critical condition.

Deputies said no criminal charges would be filed, though an investigation continues.

"It wasn't all that big a thing, to be honest," Brad Crouch said of the rescue. Then he added that the teens were "cool under pressure."

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

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