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81-year-old woman dies after falling off boat near Caladesi Island

Published Dec. 18, 2012

CLEARWATER — A husband and wife, both 81 years old, were fishing Tuesday afternoon in the mangroves off Caladesi Island State Park when the woman fell out of the small boat and died, officials said.

Beverly Barnes, 81, was pronounced dead after rescue workers transported her to Morton Plant Hospital. Her husband, Norman Robert Barnes, was hospitalized at Morton Plant after he swallowed a significant amount of water while trying to rescue his wife, said Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The couple are believed to be seasonal residents who divide their time between Iowa and the Pinellas County area, said Clearwater spokeswoman Joelle Castelli.

Officials say they were fishing in a small john boat anchored between Caladesi Island and the northern end of Clearwater Beach.

Norman Barnes was sitting toward the boat's stern when he turned to find his wife missing from the bow, where she had been sitting. He dove in, pulled her out of the water, began administering CPR and called 911, Morse said.

Clearwater authorities got a 911 call from Norman Barnes on a cell phone shortly after 12:30 p.m. Clearwater Fire and Rescue began to search for the boat. It took rescue workers about 20 minutes to locate the boaters through the GPS on Barnes' cell phone.

Beverly Barnes was in cardiac arrest when rescue workers arrived, authorities said.

Fish and Wildlife and the Clearwater Police Department are co-investigating the incident. There is nothing to indicate foul play.