FWC: No charges in holiday boating flap
CHARLOTTE HARBOR — Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers do not plan to file criminal charges against those involved in a boating mishap over the long holiday weekend that left two men stranded in harbor waters for several hours.
FWC regional spokesman Gary Morse said the agency was unable to determine who was behind the wheel of the 23-foot vessel when it abandoned the two men in the water, but did acknowledge that several of the individuals were intoxicated at the time of the incident. Morse said the agency has wrapped up its investigation and was merely assisting the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office because the incident occurred in its jurisdiction.
At least two people on the boat reportedly are CCSO employees. Erin Hume, the CCSO evidence supervisor; and Melody Shinner, a CCSO evidence custodian, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The names of other boat passengers released by the FWC included Andrew Hume, Angela Mobley and Melinda Wilson, all of whom could not be reached for comment Thursday. Eric Shinner, another passenger reached by phone on Thursday, declined to comment for this story.
According to a report released by the CCSO on Tuesday, two men were left stranded in the water for more than three hours late Sunday after they jumped overboard and then playfully were abandoned by the boat’s operators.
The report states the women driving the boat attempted to play a prank on the men by pretending to leave them, but when they returned in the boat they could not locate the men in the water.
They originally reported that the men were ejected when they struck a sandbar, but eventually relented and told authorities what happened, the prior report shows. They searched for nearly 40 minutes before contacting authorities, the report states.
The U.S. Coast Guard, the FWC, Charlotte County Fire/EMS, Cape Coral Fire, Boca Grande Fire, Lee County Fire, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and the CCSO Marine Unit all took part in the search, with the CCSO aviation unit eventually locating the men using a helicopter equipped with heat-seeking technology.
The men were located 1.5 miles north of Cape Haze Point, and a quarter-mile offshore, the report states. Both men were found in good health when they were pulled out of the water around 12:30 a.m. Monday.
All four women appeared to be intoxicated, the report states, when Charlotte Fire/EMS found the boat near Boca Grande.
The CCSO declined to comment for this story, saying it was waiting to see the FWC investigator’s complete report. Both agencies claim the incident took place in the other’s jurisdiction.
Morse told the Sun on Thursday that the FWC’s end of the investigation is wrapped, and that it did not plan to seek criminal charges. Morse said the FWC conducted a few interviews and provided some assistance to the CCSO, but that was the extent of its involvement.
“We just provided some basic help,” Morse added.