Advertisement
  1. News

Two dead in Clearwater after personal watercraft collides with tour boat

Published Sep. 29, 2013

CLEARWATER — Two people on a personal watercraft died Saturday evening after colliding with a tour boat near the Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge.

Around 6:10 p.m., about an hour before sunset, a 51-year-old man and a 49-year-old woman on a rented personal watercraft crashed into a double-deck tour boat on a dolphin-sighting cruise, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is investigating.

The pair were from out of state, and authorities did not release their identities Saturday night.

No one on the tour boat, from the Tropics Boat Tours out of Clearwater, was injured.

Around 10 p.m., the tour boat's owner, Trisha Rodriguez of Palm Harbor, came off the boat at its dock near Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach.

"Our thoughts and our prayers are with the family affected by this tragic accident," she said, voice cracking. "This has never happened to us before. It's a tragedy."

Investigators at the scene asked her not to answer questions about the number of passengers on the tour boat or share other details about the incident, citing their active investigation.

But passengers leaving the tour boat earlier in the evening told 25-year-old Gabby Velas of Orlando that the water scooter crashed after trying to outrun the boat in a game of chicken. Velas ran to see what happened when a half dozen ambulances and fire trucks came racing up to the tour boat, which was docked next to her Clearwater Beach hotel.

The passengers said the tour boat's captain tried to cut the engine to avoid a crash, but it was too late, Velas said.

Investigators were still talking to the tour boat's captain late Saturday to better understand what happened.

Rodriguez said all the Tropics Boat Tours cruises today were canceled out of respect to the deceased.

Wildlife commission spokesman Baryl Martin said the incident should remind everyone of the hazards of personal watercraft.

This is the second fatal accident this month involving a water scooter in the area. Fifteen-year-old Katie Yale of Seminole died after a Labor Day collision between the inner tube she was riding on Lake Seminole and a personal watercraft.

In March 2012, Victor Vazquez, 40, of Indian Rocks Beach died after the personal watercraft he was riding struck a channel marker in the Intracoastal Waterway in Indian Rocks Beach. Vazquez was a passenger. The driver, Robert Turnbull, 35, of Indian Rocks Beach, was intoxicated, authorities said, and was charged with boating under the influence, manslaughter and vessel homicide.

In January 2012, Ryan Burke, 30, of Lutz was killed and a woman was injured when two personal watercrafts collided on Lake Hobbs in Lutz. Burke and the woman had been riding at night and not wearing life jackets, authorities said, in violation of state law.

"Slow down. It increases your reaction time and gives you space that could save your life," Martin said. "People think these things are toys, but they're not."

Times staff writer Will Hobson contributed to this report.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister [CHRIS URSO | Times]
    Yes, that’s an "R" next to his name on the ballot. But if you dig deeper, Sue Carlton asks, does the sheriff bleed blue? And a follow-up: Does it matter?
  2. The projected path of Tropical Storm Nestor. National Hurricane Center
    Nestor is expected to dump two to four inches of rain in Tampa Bay, along with the threat of tornadoes.
  3. 4 hours ago• Pinellas
    Fin is Pinellas County's Pet of the Week. Friends of Strays Animal Shelter
    The 4-year-old mixed breed is available for adoption at Friends of Strays Animal Shelter
  4. A semi-trailer truck fell onto an SUV on Interstate 4 on Friday night after a reported tornado touched down and crossed the highway near Lakeland. No one was injured. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Powerful winds caused damage and power loss but no injuries in Pinellas County. In Polk County, I-4 drivers were fortunate no one was injured when a tornado crosses the interstate.
  5. The Florida Department of Transportation is installing lights on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as part of a $15 million project. During tests this weekend, engineers will illuminate the bridge in a pink hue to commemorate breast cancer awareness month. Courtesy of Florida Department of Transportation
    The Florida Department of Transportation is lighting up the span this weekend to commemorate breast cancer awareness month.
  6. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The 63-year-old crossing guard was hospitalized, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  7. Amber Perera looks out at the courtroom audience during her sentencing hearing at the Hillsborough County Courthouse. Perera caused a fatal crash on the Selmon Expressway in Tampa in August, 10, 2017 that killed Rita and Luiz Felipak and their 8-year-old daughter Giorgia Felipak. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    Amber Perera is responsible for the 2017 crash that killed a family of three. She hopes to avoid a life sentence. The judge is still deciding.
  8. Tampa Bay Lighting host a watch party on the beach at the Tradewinds resort on St. Pete Beach in February. LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times
    TradeWinds is the biggest resort in Pinellas County.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement