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Charter captain cited after crashing boat into Ruskin restaurant

The front of a 39-foot fishing boat can be seen from inside the Sunset Grille restaurant on Little Harbor after the charter captain driving it became disoriented in heavy fog and skidded across about 30 yards of beach.
Published Feb. 24, 2015

RUSKIN — The captain of the 39-foot boat that crashed into a restaurant in Little Harbor on Monday evening has been cited for recklessly operating the vessel, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Matt Santiago, 31, founder of the Tampa Bay Fishing Guide Association, was headed for a Little Harbor marina through thick fog when he ran aground, said FWC spokesman Baryl Martin. The four-motor SeaVee skidded across about 30 yards of beach and crashed through the side of the Sunset Grille restaurant, Martin said, where it remained overnight and into Tuesday afternoon.

"At this point, with the fog, you couldn't really see anything," Martin said. "On the water in a dense fog, it's very easy to get turned around."

It was estimated that Santiago was traveling between 40 and 50 miles per hour.

The owner of the boat, Jeff Willis, 56, was one of six passengers on board at the time of the crash. One person was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

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