Boater dies just feet from land when he dives in to find cellphone, US cops say


The 69-year-old West Virginia resident is believed to have suffered ‘a medical episode’ while attempting to retrieve his friend’s cellphone in the water, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office said in a May 9 news release. — Image by freepik

A man boating along Florida’s Gulf Coast died just feet from land, when he chased after a phone that fell overboard at the dock, according to investigators.

The 69-year-old West Virginia resident is believed to have suffered “a medical episode” in the water, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office said in a May 9 news release. His identity has not been released.

It happened Wednesday, May 8, after the man and two companions returned to the Hernando Beach Boat Ramp after a day on the water, the sheriff’s office said.

“While at the dock and in the process of removing the boat from the water, one of the men’s cellphone fell into the water,” officials said.

“After removing the boat from the water, the victim told his friends he was going in the water to retrieve his friend’s cellphone. Taking only a pair of goggles, the victim ... returned to the dock and jumped into the water, feet first.”

A witness reported the man never resurfaced, resulting in “several people” jumping in the water to search for him, officials said.

His body was recovered around 8.30pm, with the help of the Hernando County marine unit and underwater operations team, officials said.

“Preliminary investigation indicates no signs of foul play. The incident appears to be accidental or related to a medical episode,” the sheriff’s office said. “The victim suffered from heart disease and had a pacemaker.”

The man was a resident of West Virginia with a vacation home in adjacent Pasco County, officials said. The Hernando Beach Boat Ramp is about 50 miles northwest of downtown Tampa. – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

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