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Survivor of fatal Davis Islands boat crash caught in propeller after jumping overboard

People who witnessed a fatal boat crash off Davis Islands jumped in to help before first responders reached the scene. The driver hit a piling and was killed. A passenger was rescued from underwater and was undergoing treatment at nearby Tampa General Hospital.  [PAUL GUZZO   |   Times]
People who witnessed a fatal boat crash off Davis Islands jumped in to help before first responders reached the scene. The driver hit a piling and was killed. A passenger was rescued from underwater and was undergoing treatment at nearby Tampa General Hospital. [PAUL GUZZO | Times]
Published Aug. 7, 2018

TAMPA — Jay Young took off his shoes and swam out from Davis Islands on Sunday afternoon to help a woman stuck on a small boat as it circled out of control.

Then, as Young struggled to reach up toward the throttle of the outboard motor, the woman -- later identified as Brittany Mundie, 22, of Tampa -- jumped into the water.

So he figured he'd rest a moment on the side of the 15-foot Gheenoe, then go find her. But as he grabbed for the boat, he touched Mundie instead. Her hair had become entangled underwater in the propeller, bringing the motor to a stop and lashing her to it.

"'Oh my God,' I thought, 'that is her head,'" Young said. "'Oh my God, that is her whole body.'"

He yelled to another man who was swimming out to help and they pulled the boat ashore along Seddon Channel to free Mundie. She was undergoing treatment Monday at nearby Tampa General Hospital, where she is listed in critical condition.

Mundie had been left alone on the boat when the driver slammed into a piling and flew overboard, Young said. The driver was pronounced dead at Tampa General on Sunday. He was identified Monday as Keith Rohde, 22, of Lutz — a Tampa native and graduate of Steinbrenner High School described by his aunt Jessica Eckley as "a fun-loving and charismatic kid."

Young, 56, technology services manager at Amalie Arena, lives on Davis Islands and was out for a walk just after 5 p.m. Sunday when he noticed the 15-foot fiberglass boat moving quickly along the eastern shore at Channel Drive near Cayuga Avenue.

Then came the crash.

Rohde was ejected. Mundie fell sprawling to the deck.

"I was 15 or 20 feet away," Young said. "I took off my shoes and jumped straight in."

First, he looked for the driver near the piling but could not find him. Then he heard a fisherman yelling to Mundie to stop the engine as it kept moving in widening circles.

"She looked very dazed, very confused," Young said.

He was cut and nearly went under the propeller as he tried in vain the kill the throttle.

At that point, Mundie jumped from the boat, he said. As it looped around, it hit the back of her head.

"I grabbed the back of the boat to try to get some rest before I dove to find her, but, when I did, I realized I could feel her hair in the motor," Young said.

They got her ashore and Tampa Fire Rescue arrived, about 5:23 p.m. The agency's dive team pulled the man from the water, spokesman Jason Penny said.

Keith Rohde was majoring in business at the University of South Florida and had worked five years as an attendant at boat rental company eBoats in Tampa. He stood 6-foot-2 and had been a linebacker at the University of Mount Union in Ohio before transferring to USF, said Eckley, his aunt.

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Eckley called her nephew a warm-weather guy who loved to fish and make people smile.

"He's just going to be so dearly missed," Eckley said.

His family was still awaiting word Monday on details of the crash.

Meantime, Young of Davis Islands is hoping to hear word about the woman he helped rescue.

"It had taken several minutes to get her back above water. By some miracle, she was still able to breathe," Young said.

"It was just an amazing coincidence that I was in the right place at the right time. I hope she is okay."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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