FWC officers rescue boater
Friday, August 26, 2011
Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426
A St. Augustine man is alive today thanks to
wearing his life jacket and alert Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers Ben Boots
and Mike Pedonti.
At around 12:30 a.m., Geary Allen Springer (DOB
08/08/54) was a passenger in a 9-foot dinghy with David Mark Hickey
(DOB 06/27/59) paddling from the Crane Park boat ramp in the
Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) heading north back to Hickey's boat
moored at the city marina. The water was very rough, and a wave
swamped their vessel, which caused the two men to fall into the
Hickey was able to make it to shore, but he lost
sight of his friend. Hickey walked through the wetlands to Flagler
Hospital and reported the incident, and the search began. Searchers
using boats and helicopters included the FWC, St. Johns County
Sheriff's Office, St. Augustine Police Department and U.S. Coast
Guard Station Mayport personnel.
"I was on the water searching at 3 a.m., and it
was not the kind of weather recreational boaters should be out in,"
said FWC Officer Corey Bridwell. "We were feeling the effects of
Hurricane Irene, the seas were rough, the winds were gusty, and
conditions were rapidly deteriorating."
Around 9 a.m., Pedonti and Boots located Springer
clinging to mangrove trees in the ICW just north of the 312 bridge.
He was still wearing the life jacket he had put on for what he
thought would be a short paddle back to the boat.
"This story has a happy ending for Mr. Springer,
and the reason is that he was wearing his life jacket. In fact,
after we picked him up he said, 'the life jacket saved my life',"
Springer had a small abrasion to his left hand
and slight hypothermia. He was treated by St. Johns County EMT
personnel and released.
The FWC is continuing its investigation into the
accident, and is still searching for the sunken dinghy.