Man falls, drowns while fishing from Key Royale dock

A 72-year-old Canadian man drowned April 3 after falling into Tampa Bay while fishing from a residential dock.

Luciano Ranieri of Ontario fell from the dock of a home in the 700 block of Key Royale Drive. He was submerged and his foot became wedged in the dock, according to the police report.

Holmes Beach Police Officer Josh Fleischer was the first to respond around 4 p.m., in reference to a dropped 911 call.

When he arrived at the home, he could hear screaming at the back of the house.

Fleischer called for backup, then went to the waterfront, where he saw several people trying to help Ranieri.

A woman was in the water trying to hold his head up and others had attempted to tie a rope around him to pull him up, but their attempts were unsuccessful.

“The water was really deep there, so it was difficult for them to do anything because they couldn’t touch bottom,” Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said.

Fleischer, who is more than 6 feet tall, jumped in the bay, barely touching the bay bottom, and held the victim’s head above water until more help arrived, Tokajer said.

When West Manatee Fire Rescue and Emergency Medical Services crews arrived, they were able to free Ranieri’s foot from the dock, according to the report.

He was lifted onto a neighbor’s kayak. A lifeguard, who had arrived on scene, and one of the medics immediately started CPR while others steadied the kayak, the report stated.

Officials used a nearby boatlift to raise Ranieri on the kayak from the water.

The victim was taken to Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, where he was pronounced dead, Tokajer said.

The home belongs to Ilona Bankuty. She said Ranieri and his wife, Eva Ranieri, were visiting that afternoon. They were all relaxing on the dock when he fell into the water, she said.

Bankuty, who has known the victim more than 50 years, said he often fishes from the dock when the weather is nice.

“He was a very dear friend, and what happened to him was just horrific,” she said.

Eva Ranieri said she and her husband own a winter home in Bradenton and visit the Bankutys as much as they can when they are in the area.

“We love to go over there and fish and play cards,” she said. “It’s just so nice being on the water and they are like family to us.”

She said she plans to hold funeral services for her husband in Ontario.

“We just want to take him home,” she said, adding that her husband was a wonderful man who would have done anything for his family.

“He will be missed,” she said.

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