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Florida boating fatalities climbs to near-record high with 52 people this year

The deaths of six people in three separate boating-related accidents in Florida during the Labor Day weekend brought Florida’s tragic total to 52 people who have lost their lives this year.

Three people died Friday night, Sept. 4 when two vessels collided near Brooks Bridge at Fort Walton Beach. Two of the victims were from Alabama, the other from Texas.

On Sept. 5, three others died, including a father and son from Tequesta who were bass fishing in Lake Okeechobee.

Later in the day, an Alabama man died after the family fishing boat capsized in the Gulf of Mexico off Indian Pass in Gulf County. Jacksonville man dies Aug. 18

The body of a Jacksonville boater who had been missing for two days was found Aug. 18 after falling into Julington Creek in Clay County.

Shane M. Wiggins fell into the creek near Mandarin Point and San Jose Boulevard, police said. His body was found about a mile from there, the FWC reported, after a concerned homeowner spotted buzzards circling in the area.

Wiggins, 29, was headed toward the St. Johns River with Patti A. Floyd, 40, of St. Augustine. Floyd was the only passenger aboard Wiggins’ 20-foot boat, according to officials. Floyd told authorities she saw Wiggins step to the rear of the boat to urinate when they cleared the bridge. But when she looked back, Wiggins was gone. She scanned the water for several minutes to no avail.

Crystal River resident dies Aug. 19

The body of a Crystal River man was found one day after he went missing Aug. 19 in Yankeetown.

Theodore R. Edwards III, 49, left the Highway 40 boat ramp in Yankeetown on the Withlacoochee River to go fishing Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. He was operating a 1996 17-foot Polar aluminum vessel and was scheduled to return by 1 p.m.

His mother, Barbara L. Wollard, returned to the boat ramp at the appointed time to pick him up. When he did not return, Wollard called the Coast Guard for help. At approximately 1 p.m. Wednesday, FWC officers located Edwards’ body in the Gulf of Mexico about 11-1/2 miles west-northwest of Chamber Island at the mouth of the Withlacoochee River.

Florida’s boating deaths dropped by 30% to 54 fatalities in 2008 – 23 fewer than in 2007 – and was the lowest since 2001 when 54 deaths were recorded. With more coastline (1,350 miles) than any other state except sparsely populated Alaska, Florida usually leads the nation in boating deaths. Florida’s 2007 toll of 77 topped all other states. California was second with 48.

Florida also continued to lead the nation with slightly more than 1 million registered vessels last year although the total dropped by 16,684 from a record high in 2007. Florida Boating Fatalities

2009: 52 (as of Sept. 6)

2008: 54

2007: 77

2006: 69

2005: 80

2004: 66

2003: 64

2002: 52

2001: 54