BY JACK SHORT – Charlotte County Fire and EMS and the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office were part of the response team that may have saved a man’s life after he nearly drowned on May 25, Memorial Day, in Gasparilla Pass, north of Gasparilla Island.
According to representatives of CCSO and Charlotte County EMS the victim, Chris Combrink, 24, was unconscious, cyanotic, and had no pulse or breath when CCSO officers located him.
Ofc. Michael Griffin, who wrote the report, was later told by witnesses that Combrink and others had jumped in the water to swim to shore from where they were anchored, approximately 100 yards off Little Gasparilla Island.
The report states: “The witness advised Mr. Combrink could not swim. The witness stated they asked Mr. Combrink if he was ok and he stated that he was good.” The report says that observer Vincent Cloyd pulled Combrink onto an 18-foot Mako with the help of Richard Leyden, who was aboard a nearby skiff, after seeing Combrink sink beneath the surface after a dog swam over him.
After he was on board the Mako, The caller was advised to fire a flare from the crowd of boats in Gasparilla Pass so officers could locate the vessel and where two observers, Melissa Walsh and Cody Bowen, had begun, to the best of their ability, to render chest compressions and assisted breaths.
Officers transferred the victim to the CCSO boat and resumed CPR before being relieved by Charlotte County EMS paramedics, who met them on scene. They transported Combrink to the Gasparilla Marina where an ambulance waited to take him to “Englewood Hospital.”
During transport to the hospital, according to the report, EMS was able to “get a pulse” and was put on a ventilator.
A representative from Charlotte County EMS confirmed that Combrink was still alive after he’d been taken to the hospital.