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Propeller strike highlights dangerous boating weekend

June 27, 2024
By Anna Ridilla

Useppa assists in boat resembling beached whale

Area fire and EMS had a busy afternoon last Saturday, June 22, with calls of an overturned boat in the pass and a prop strike. 

The Boca Grande Fire Department got an alert of an overturned boat with four men and no life jackets around 4:30 p.m., but the Useppa Fire Department responded, as the BGFD was dealing with an injured man who had been struck by a boat propellor.

The man struck was taken on the boat to a private dock on Loomis Avenue, where EMS met them. This private dock had some obstacles that delayed getting the man on land, Chief C.W. Blosser said. 

He needed to be transported to the trauma center in Sarasota, but poor weather prevented the use of a helicopter, so he was taken in an ambulance, accompanied by a member of the department. 

“I want everyone to know that if you have a marina emergency, come to our public safety dock, if possible,” Blosser said. This is the fastest way that the BGFD can administer appropriate care to the affected party.

The public safety dock is located in the bayou and was built in 2018 to reduce response time for marine emergencies. It also facilitates the landing of a helicopter when needed for patient care and transport.

Coordinates for the dock are N26 45.052 and W82 15.400


A rescue 20 miles offshore was one of many boating issues over the weekend.U.S. Coast Guard photoAround the same time as the prop strike rescue, the overturned boat was towed out of the pass, likely to get it out of the current so a salvage company could come recover it, Blosser said. From the Hilltide area at the South End, the overturned boat could be seen by people on Belcher Road. Some thought it may have been a misguided whale, as they saw a giant “humped blob.”

Fire Chief Marc Mascarelli at the Useppa Island Fire Rescue said that the boat suffered a cracked hull while the operator and occupants were outrunning a thunderstorm. The hull filled quickly. “Once they came off plane, the boat rolled over with all occupants,” said Mascarelli. They then jumped into the water without lifejackets. “We arrived about the same time as Boca Grande, and loaded the people on our boat,” said Mascarelli. Useppa stayed with the boat until law-enforcement arrived, as it was a navigable hazard to other boaters. 

None of the occupants, all aged 18 to 21, were injured or needed any medical assistance, Mascarelli said.

Later that evening, the U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Myers Beach rescued a disabled boat 20 miles off of Captiva and Sanibel, after the boat used their personal locator beacon. That triggered the U.S. Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, according to a report from Bosun Mate Kieran Neschich. St. Petersburg could then quickly give the location to the Fort Myers Beach station.