Posted on Tue, Aug. 10, 2004
Four went fishing; three returned
Georgia man's body is sought off Taylor
By James L. Rosica
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER
The Coast Guard on Monday rescued three of the four Georgia men who had been missing since they left Steinhatchee on a fishing trip Saturday morning.
But the rescued men said that their fourth companion, 32-year-old John Fish, had died in the water. A search for his body continued Monday night, Coast Guard spokesman Lt. j.g. Andres Camargo said.
The rescued men were identified as Jake Fish, 56, John Fish's father; Keith Smith, 37; and Michael Jackson, 52.
The Coast Guard cutter Hawk found the men floating in life vests about 30 miles from Steinhatchee, Camargo said. Steinhatchee, a small fishing town in southern Taylor County, is about 80 miles southeast of Tallahassee.
Their boat, a 17-foot Seapro, had not been found as of 6 p.m. Monday.
The three men were airlifted to Shands Medical Center in Gainesville. Authorities had not been able to interview the survivors as of Monday evening, Camargo said. Weather reports showed intermittent thunder- storms in that area over the weekend.
They left Saturday morning on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico and were expected back that evening. Family members reported the men missing Sunday, and the search began at about 7 p.m. that day.
According to reports, all of the men are from Monticello, Ga., about 40 miles northeast of Macon.
The Coast Guard used helicopters, boats and a C-130 airplane in the search, Camargo said. Karen Parker, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said that its law-enforcement officers assisted in planes and boats.
The missing vessel left out of the Gulf Breeze Marina, Parker said. Camargo added the men had gone out the previous Thursday and Friday, also on day trips.
The incident was similar to one in November when four Georgia boaters were reported missing out of Keaton Beach, about 70 miles southeast of Tallahassee.
Amanda Player, 20; her boyfriend, Matthew Hutchinson, 24, both of Valdosta, Ga.; Jeremiah Griffin, 24, of Hahira, Ga.; and Dominic Barros, 37, of Dixie, Ga., planned to fish 20 miles offshore. Their 20-foot boat was eventually found 51 miles south of Keaton Beach, but their bodies were never recovered.
"The Gulf has been very unforgiving," Fish and Wildlife spokesman Stan Kirkland said.
There were 52 recreational-boating deaths in Florida in 2002 and 65 in 2003, state records show. Fish's death brings this year's total to 31.
Contact reporter James L. Rosica at (850) 599-2304 or firstname.lastname@example.org