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Date of Issue: December 30, 2009

Family of drowning victim sues

The wife of a man who drowned near Longboat Pass July 4 has filed a wrongful death suit in Manatee County Circuit Court.

Jose H. Medina, 30, of Deltona, drowned while operating a personal watercraft at the entrance to Longboat Pass near Bradenton Beach.

Three people — Medina, wife Christie Soto and a friend — were riding a personal watercraft about 2 p.m. on July 4 when the accident happened, according to the Manatee County Emergency Medical Service.

Medina was on his wife’s Jet Ski when its engine failed. He attempted to restart the craft, but, according to the suit, “was swept by the strong outgoing ebb tidal current within the waters towards Longboat Pass.”

Authorities said witnesses saw Medina, who was wearing a lifejacket, trying to pull the watercraft to the shore at Coquina Beach Bayside, but then he was no longer visible.

Medina was swept toward the barge and forced underneath, where he was trapped “rather than being allowed to drift freely with the channel of water pushing through Longboat Pass, thereby causing his tragic death by drowning,” the suit alleges.

Soto, who has five children, filed a 37-page lawsuit Dec. 21, naming McCulley Marine Services, Tug Champion, John McCulley and Michael Hollingsworth as defendants.

Soto, represented by the Faddis and Warner law firm of Casselberry, is seeking unspecified damages in the suit, which alleges that the defendants, while working on an artificial reef project for Manatee County, obstructed the waterway.

The suit states, “defendants individually, and jointly as joint venturers, knew or should have known that the mooring of a barge and its accompanying tug astern within Coquina Beach and Bayside Park, immediately adjacent to a public boat ramp and its navigable waters immediately adjacent thereto, utilized by hundreds of Jet Ski enthusiasts on July 4 weekend, would constitute an obstruction of navigation” in violation of U.S. Coast Guard regulations.

At press time, representatives from McCulley Marine Services had not been reached Tug Champion.