News Releases

FWC officers rescue boater

News Release

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 water.

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'," said Pedonti.

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.

FWC Facts:
Sailfish live for about 5 years.

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