Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fatal Boating Accident Leads to Plenty of Questions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fatal Boating Accident Leads to Plenty of Questions

Article excerpt

The bizarre boating accident that killed Anthony Earl Henton last week has area boaters asking a lot of questions.

Henton died when his 21-foot center-console sport-fishing boat hit a beam in the waters of Nassau Sound and the 200-horsepower Mercury outboard engine was thrown off the transom and struck him in the boat.

The first question is, how could a properly mounted outboard engine come free from the boat in that manner, no matter what it hit?

The second is, who, if anyone, is responsible for reporting and removing objects floating in the waterways that can cause damage and injury to recreational boats?

There may never be an answer to the first question, which involves an occurrence that veteran law enforcement officers and boaters call unprecedented.

"I've never heard of anything like that," Lt. John Conboy of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission's Jacksonville Beach district office said last week. "We have so far discovered no further facts that might explain it."

What is known is that Henton's boat, traveling at high speed, struck a huge floating object, not just a board from a dock or even a loose piling.

"It was a large beam, I'd say 12 x 18 [inches] and 16 feet long," Conboy said.

The FWC officer said the beam later had been towed by FWC boats to the docks at the city of Jacksonville's Sisters Creek Park and secured. But he added neither the FWC nor any other agency has an official policy regarding removal of such hazards.

The city of Jacksonville once had a "snag boat" that collected hazardous objects floating in the water, but that service was discontinued more than 30 years ago.

"If our officers see a hazard like that, if they can tow it with their boats, they try to get it to shore and out of the water," Conboy said.

In any event, a huge beam the size Henton's boat struck might have proven too much for a single 22-foot patrol boat to take in tow. In such cases, local and state law enforcment officers contact the Coast Guard at Group Mayport and alert the service of the obstruction. …

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