Deputies rescue family from sinking boat

OKEECHOBEE — Two local deputies rescued an Okeechobee family from the wind-blown waters of Lake Okeechobee after their bass boat began to sink then flipped over.

A report by Deputy Lieutenant Shannon Peterson, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), indicated he and OCSO Deputy Sergeant Randy Thomas rescued the Tewksbury family around 4:41 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27.

Sgt. Thomas said the family — Harry, 52, Linda, 51, Cameron, 24, and Adam, 24 — first started having trouble while they were in open water. He said their Storm bass boat began taking on water until if flipped over with the keel exposed.

According to archived records at WeatherForYou.com late afternoon winds on that day were out of the east-northeast and were gusting up to 28 mph.

“They saw the weather coming in; it started getting choppy on them and they started taking on too much water,” explained Sgt. Thomas. “So, we went out there and grabbed them. It was pretty choppy when we were out there.”

The family was found just inside the bulrush on the east side of Little Grassy.

“Two (family members) were standing on top waiving, and the other two were in the water,” said Sgt. Thomas, who added each member of the family was wearing a life vest.

Although the deputy didn’t know the exact water depth, he did recount how no one was touching the bottom.

“All subjects were taken aboard and checked for injuries. All subjects stated they were OK,” stated Lt. Peterson in his report.

The deputies then took the family to the boat ramps at Lock 7 where they were met by emergency medical personnel from Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue.

Because of the high winds and rough water, the deputies did not try to tow the boat into shore on Friday. Lt. Peterson and Sgt. Thomas returned to the island the next day and retrieved the overturned bass boat.

He said the boat was in pretty good shape. The estimated damages to the boat were set at $15,000, indicated Lt. Peterson’s report.

“It (the boat) was not in bad shape at all,” he said. “All that was missing was one seat cushion. Obviously, the (outboard) motor won’t be any good.”

He went on to say all of the electronics, gauges and such were likely destroyed by being underwater.

Sgt. Thomas, who has a wealth of boating experience on Florida waters, said the high winds were the blame for the boat sinking.

“The cause was rough water. There’s no doubt about that,” he added.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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