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Pinellas deputies investigate death of Madeira Beach boater

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said it received a call Friday night about a person calling for help from the waters behind Madeira Beach Fundamental Elementary School.
Check for the latest breaking news and updates.
Check for the latest breaking news and updates. [ Photo illustration by ASHLEY DYE and LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published May 15
Updated May 15

MADEIRA BEACH — Deputies are investigating the death of a 33-year-old boater who was aboard a dinghy that sank near an elementary school Friday night, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s dive team and boats from the sheriff’s office, the Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched a search for Dwight Haggins after receiving a call at about 11:10 p.m. Someone said they heard a person asking for help in the water behind Madeira Beach Fundamental Elementary School at 591 Tom Stuart Causeway.

Investigators say Haggins was with his 6-year-old son Kapone Fitzgerald, a 31-year-old friend, Erik Echols, and 31-year-old Nicholas Dunski, who owned the boat. The group started from the water at the Madeira Beach McDonalds at 650 150th Ave. They headed south under the Tom Stuart Causeway to go to Dunski’s boat, which was offshore.

Their small boat sank near Madeira Beach Fundamental Elementary School after taking on water, deputies say. Haggins was not wearing a life jacket and was not able to swim to shore, while the other passengers made it and were unharmed.

Authorities found Haggins’ body Saturday morning. His son is now being care for by a relative.