Tag Archives: 07-10-2013

14-year-old is victim of Anna Maria rip current

A 14-year old boy visiting Anna Maria with his family from Winter Haven July 6, disappeared in the Gulf of Mexico during an afternoon visit to the beach and was found drowned around 9 a.m. July 7, south of the Sandbar Restaurant.

A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office marine unit found the body near where the boy had disappeared in the surf. The water was choppy from a brisk breeze and small waves were breaking on shore.

On Saturday evening, north of the Willow access, two weddings were ongoing on the beach while others unknowingly played in the surf. Some people tried and failed to right a small fishing boat overturned close to shore just north of the Sandbar Restaurant.

There were circling helicopters, five-six rescue vessels displaying blue flashing lights and rescuers on personal watercraft, while a white pickup truck, which had carried marine rescue personnel and paddleboards to the beach, was parked at the water’s edge.

The rescue effort, however, became a recovery operation on Sunday morning.

The victim was identified as Dushay Nelson. He had been wading in knee-deep water with his 12-year old brother near the Willow Avenue beach access around 4:30 p.m. July 6 when a current prevented him from returning to shore, authorities said. The younger brother was able to reach shore and a search was begun for the older brother.

MCSO spokesman Dave Bristow said in a press release that multiple agencies had searched for the boy after he was carried away.

The search included three helicopters — one from the U.S. Coast Guard, one from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and a third from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement unit.

On the water, as many as 10 Manatee County Marine Rescue lifeguards searched from personal watercraft and inflatable boats, while the sheriff’s office, West Manatee Fire Rescue and FWC marine patrol officers searched by boat.

MCSO Lt. Barry Overstreet, viewing the scene of boats and helicopters in the search from the Willow Avenue beach access amid crowds of people, said, “It’s just a terrible tragedy.”

Some observers called the scene surreal. Islanders Jeff and Annie Petitt, walking the beach near sunset, said they were saddened and surprised at the number of people playing nearby in the water.

Overstreet said a local church helped provide overnight shelter on the island for the boy’s family.

The search for Nelson was called off at about 8:24 p.m. Saturday, and resumed near 7 a.m. on July 7.

Group of 12 swimmers rescued from Gulf of Mexico waters

Twelve young swimmers were pulled from the Gulf of Mexico by rescue teams July 4 near Sycamore Avenue in Anna Maria after they were unable to swim some 300 feet back to shore.

West Manatee Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Brett Pollock said the youngsters apparently were caught in a strong northerly current and could not swim back to shore. They shouted for help and nearby beachgoers called 911.

Pollock said Manatee County Marine Rescue personnel on personal watercrafts were the first responders to arrive to the scene around 3:30 p.m. They began bringing the youngsters to shore aboard the small rescue crafts.

WMFR emergency medical staff, a boat and fire rescue vehicles were dispatched to assist, as were Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies from the Anna Maria substation.

Pollock said the swimmers had drifted from 200 feet offshore to 300 feet by the time county lifeguards, who were dispatched from the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach, began pulling them to safety.

“They were examined by medical staff but there were no injuries and everyone returned safely to shore,” Pollock said.

The incident serves as a caution to swimmers. In addition to strong currents that occasionally flow north or south along the shore, Anna Maria Island beaches also can produce rip tides and currents that can pull even the strongest swimmer away from land.

It’s a good idea to swim with others and know the beach advisory for a particular location, Pollock said.

There were no rip current advisories July 4, but thunderstorms from the southwest moved through the island area that afternoon, bringing strong currents with them.

MCSO Sgt. Paul Davis of the Anna Maria substation said his deputies were on hand to assist if needed.

Davis praised the work of the marine rescue unit for quick action in getting to the area and bringing the swimmers to safety on their small watercraft.

“Thankfully, everyone returned to shore safely and a life-threatening situation was avoided,” he said.

July 4 holiday runs head-on into post-holiday problems

Just when law enforcement thought a bang-up holiday, filled with fireworks on the beaches up and down the 7-mile length of Anna Maria Island had passed without major incident, by July 5 there were major traffic issues and a somber event on the beach — a drowning.

Other than a reported fight that led to an arrest in Holmes Beach, HBPD Police Chief Bill Tokajer said July 4 passed without major incident.

Tokajer said the typical issues of illegal parking and visitors lighting off their own fireworks on the beaches kept his officers fairly busy but, “There were no major issues. For the most part, everybody that participated in the holiday celebration was well behaved.”

Tokajer said the annual Anna Maria Island Privateers Independence Day Parade went smoothly and “was wonderful. The mayor and I also went out on the beaches on the morning of July 5 to help with the cleanup.”

The chief said there was a lot of litter left on the beaches following the celebrating, but the waste was not as bad as he expected for an “active” holiday.

“It wasn’t anywhere near as bad I thought it would be when we went out on the beach,” he said. “But we did pile up garbage bags about 4 feet high on the back of the Polaris. Most of it was used fireworks.”

Tokajer and Mayor Carmel Monti took their public service roles to the next level by joining cleanup crews July 5. Residents took time to say “hello,” take photos and “a lot of people saw what we were doing and joined in to help the cleanup,” said Tokajer.

In Bradenton Beach, Lt. John Cosby reported a relatively mild holiday.

“I’ve seen much busier Fourth of July holidays,” he said. “I think the rain kept a lot of people away. It was actually busier on July 5, so I think people split up their vacation days to spend some time on the island and do other things.”

Cosby said there were no major incidents and everybody visiting the city for the holiday “was good.”

In Anna Maria, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies stayed busy July 4 with confiscation of illegal fireworks and removing some alcohol and grills on the beach, said MCSO Sgt. Paul Davis, head of the Anna Maria substation.

“It was very busy, especially with confiscating illegal fireworks. But it was a safe July 4, and we had no reports of any injuries or altercations,” Davis said.

Several citations were issued, he said, but most people took the fireworks confiscation in stride.

Davis and other MCSO deputies assisted with the rescue of 12 swimmers in the Gulf of Mexico north of the Sandbar Restaurant off Sycamore Avenue around 3:30 p.m. July 4, but all swimmers were safely brought to shore.

“We handled crowd control to ensure medical teams had access to the swimmers. Everything turned out fine and we’re glad of that,” he said.

On July 5, HBPD was reporting traffic gridlock, and officers were controlling traffic at some of the signaled intersections.

On July 6, MCSO deputies, marine units and the department’s helicopter took part in the search for the missing 14-year-old boy from Winter Haven who was found drowned July 7.

Privateers lead July 4 parade

The Anna Maria Island Privateers lead their own July 4 parade from Bradenton Beach to Holmes Beach to Anna Maria.

The Islander’s Toni Lyon pairs up with Lisa Williams of MoonRacer No Kill Rescue to throw the weekly newspaper and candy to the enthusiastic crowd on the parade route. Williams said crowds of people would “applaud and cheer the newspaper. It was the most fun ever.”

 

Melissa Root of Bradenton and Warren, R.I., captured and shared the photo of these “American beauties,” in the July 4 parade.

 

If the most American flags got a prize in the July 4 parade, this family effort is the winner.

 

The Ulanchs of Anna Maria show their independent spirit in the annual July 4 parade.

 

Islander Photos: Bonner Joy

 

Anna Maria Island Privateers 2013 Scholarship winners:

Seniors

Hilary Hathaway, Shipreck Scholarship

Sajani Patel, Whitey Horton Scholarship

 

Juniors

Ourania Lardas

James ‘Jimmy’ Campbell

Jacob Karguarer

Brandi Ricker

Leanne Browning

Alexander ‘Xander’ Chawi

 

Sophomores

Monica “Molly” McDonough

Freshmen

Tiana Smith, Sandpiper Scholarship

Justin Puthusseril

Myles Johnson

Samantha Haga

 

Total Scholarship dollars:  $17,300

Islander’s legacy grows with Anna Maria landscaping donation

Island philanthropist Rex Hagen has agreed in principle to fund the landscaping for the city park approved by Anna Maria commissioners June 27.

The park will take up the six lots at the corner of Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard that the city purchased for $3 million in 2011.

Commissioner Gene Aubry, an architect, drew the park plan, which provides parking for 15 cars on the south end of the property. The parking will be surrounded by trees and have egresses on Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard.

Hagen, a 30-year resident of the island, formerly residing in Holmes Beach and now in Anna Maria, has a history of contributing to civic efforts. He said Aubry had impressed him.

“Aubry’s a genius,” Hagen said.

He and Aubry plan to work closely on the trees needed to landscape the perimeter of the park. The interior of the park will remain open space, Aubry said.

Hagen said he didn’t yet have an estimate on the cost.

Aubry said middle-age native trees will be planted, and an irrigation system will provide water for the first year. Aubry’s approved plan shows 15-30 trees.

The park would include a unisex bathroom and benches.

Hagen and his late wife Helen contributed in the past to the Holmes Beach skateboard park and, most recently, Rex Hagen made a donation to the Holmes Beach dog park, which boasts a shelter dedicated to Helen.

The couple long ago funded the Anna Maria Island Community Center tennis courts, among other contributions to improve recreation in the two cities.

Stormy weather claims only 1 sea turtle nest

Consecutive days of heavy rain on the island had little impact on sea turtle nesting season, but possibly claimed one nest.

According to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring education coordinator Glenn Wiseman, the nest thought to be lost to the barrage of storms was laid too close to shore by the female loggerhead.

Wiseman said the stakes were washed away, but he’s holding out hope that the eggs were not underwater for too long. Sea turtle eggs are permeable and hatchlings can drown in their shells if inundated with rain or waves.

“We just won’t know if they will hatch until the nest is due,” he said.

Wiseman said AMITW volunteers relocated five nests that were close to the high tide mark just to be sure.

“It’s sad because you just want to do something,” said AMITW first-year volunteer Alice Schubert, who walks sections 4 and 5, from the Manatee Public Beach at 4000 Gulf Drive to 66th Street in Holmes Beach.

“I guess you have to trust Mother Nature to take care of her own,” she said.

While the recent storms have had some impact on nesting activity, loggerhead sea turtle mothers continue to crawl onto the island shores and Schubert, along with her husband and fellow volunteer Glenn, discovered their fifth nest of the season in a section generally considered to be one of the lightest nesting areas.

The Schuberts moved to the Lakewood Ranch area about 18 months ago from Hawaii and are among the few people who can get away with saying they moved from “paradise to almost paradise.”

Glenn Schubert retired from the Army Air Force Exchange Services, more commonly known as the PX to military families, but the couple spent most of their time in Hawaii, where Glenn grew up.

Alice volunteered for a seal rescue group that was similar to her duties with AMITW.

“The seals would come up on the beach during the day to sleep and we would basically be posted as guards to keep the tourists from disturbing them,” she said. “Then during mating season, they would come on shore for up to six weeks. We would rope off the area and volunteers would keep guard over the area.”

Glenn’s father died last year and the couple have two adult children, one in Florida and the other in South Carolina.

“We knew if we ever wanted to see the kids, we had to move,” Glenn said.

The two looked for an area that had Alice’s love of the beach and Glenn’s love of baseball.

“She likes to do things like this so I come with her,” Glenn said. “In turn, I drag her to a lot of the Tampa Bay Rays games.”

Upon arriving full time in Florida, Alice contacted Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota to continue her marine life volunteer work.

“They didn’t need any volunteers at that time, but they said there were a lot of different groups in the area and told me about AMITW,” Alice said. “I contacted Suzi Fox and I’m happy I can be involved.”

Alice said in Hawaii, there are mostly green sea turtles that nest, a rarity on AMI with only five recorded green nests in the past 30 years. She explained the turtles do things a little differently on the shores of Hawaii.

“They will very often come on shore to sleep,” she said.

Her enthusiasm as a “newbie” to AMITW is apparent. Alice said everything about loggerhead season is new to her, so “I get very excited even when we find a false crawl.”

The couple walk their section every Thursday and despite walking once a week in an area that typically doesn’t produce the numbers of other AMITW sections, they found their fifth nest July 4.

“I’m really excited about the nests we have found and I can’t wait to hopefully see the little hatchlings,” Alice said.

Glenn agreed, saying the couple plans on spending a couple of nights watching over their first nest when it comes due to hatch, in hopes of witnessing what few people get to see, dozens of hatchlings making their break for open water.

Sea turtle nesting season runs May 1-Oct.31, although wildlife doesn’t always follow a schedule. Last year, a rare green turtle nest in Anna Maria was the last nest of the season to hatch, which was in early December.

Anna Maria Island is primarily a nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles, but AMITW has recorded five green sea turtle nests over the course of its 30-year history of documenting sea turtle activity on the island. Four of the nests have appeared in the past two years.

A female loggerhead lays an average of 80 eggs and the incubation period is about 60 days. The hatchlings will not break from the nest until the entire group is ready to make their break for open water.

Hatchlings primarily leave the nest at night and trek to the Gulf, guided by the reflection of the stars and moon on the water.

BB-HB-Sandpiper 27th Street dispute is finally over

It’s officially over.

According to Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy, the documents with a judge’s signature dismissing the long-standing 27th Street dispute between Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach were delivered July 2 to the two city attorneys.

“I have been in contact with our city attorney Ricinda Perry,” said Shaughnessy at a July 3 special meeting. “The dismissal regarding the fence dispute with Holmes Beach has been signed, so it’s over.”

Promises that the lawsuit would be concluded “soon” have been plentiful for many months but, according to Shaughnessy, that day has come.

The dispute began in 2008 when a prior Bradenton Beach city commission granted a quitclaim deed on the city’s northern border with Holmes Beach to Sandpiper Resort mobile home park.

Holmes Beach disputed Bradenton Beach’s right to do so, but took no action until 2011, when a now-former Holmes Beach commissioner with property on the Holmes Beach side of the fence led a charge for litigation after Sandpiper installed fences, a locked gate and private property signs to prevent access to the mobile home park.

The two cities were required to attempt to mediate the dispute themselves before filing a lawsuit. A resolution was never reached and Holmes Beach filed a lawsuit about a year ago to nullify the 27th Street quitclaim.

Initial hearings over the matter didn’t go in favor of Holmes Beach, represented by city attorney Patty Petruff, but the city was afforded the opportunity to amend its complaint.

Between a rough start in court and the November elections that swept in two new commissioners and a mayor, all who pledged to end the dispute during the campaign, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach began a new round of talks to resolve the matter.

The two cities came to terms, but Sandpiper also was named as a codefendant in the lawsuit. Garnering a three-way agreement lengthened the settlement process.

Ultimately, Holmes Beach agreed to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning the city cannot file a similar action in the future.

Four years of dispute and two years of legal action have left the quitclaim in place, cost taxpayers in both cities thousands of dollars and Sandpiper residents maintain the right to preserve the integrity of their property.

The 27th Street border is used by the mobile home park for overflow parking and it remains a utility easement.

Shore returns to FISH, assumes board role

Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court R.B. “Chips” Shore returned to the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage board in Cortez at a June meeting that was held without quorum.

Shore was unable to attend the July 1 FISH meeting, but he not only was returned to the board, he assumed an executive board role as secretary.

Since former secretary Joe Kane was voted off the board in March, FISH officers have repeatedly asked for a board member to fill the role as secretary without success. That is until Shore’s return.

Shore, whose office is in charge of the Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez, resigned from FISH after months of contention between some board members and the museum staff.

Shore complained that museum staff was being treated with hostility by some FISH members and that his comments at meetings were being misrepresented by Kane in meeting minutes.

Kane’s ouster from the board following the annual election led FISH members to ask Shore to reconsider his resignation in May and he agreed.

Much of the July 1 discussion was devoted to the board’s annual budget and the rental of two FISH-owned properties to tenants.

The board has debated continued issues over disputed rent payments from its tenants and began a debate on whether or not to raise the rent on the two properties.

The first property is an apartment in the old Cortez Community Center and a small space in the former church classroom building.

The finance committee recommended raising the rent to $500 and $225 respectively.

A debate on fair market value ensued and how much money FISH should take into consideration on personal investments made by the tenants to improve their units.

A motion was made to raise the church space to $225 per month, but to grant a $50 per month credit to the tenant to repay him for his personal investment into the property.

A second motion was made to increase the rent of the community center apartment to $500. Both motions passed unanimously by those members present.

In other matters, Turner Maritime Challenge executive director Sean Wardell said the Sea Scouts of America program established early this year is going well.

Wardell said the Sea Scouts have spent 15 hours aboard sailboats and nine hours in classroom activities in June.

In boatworks matters, Jim Kelly reported that the fleet of FISH boats is being painted to better identify the fleet to the public. There will be an identical color scheme carried out on all boats.

Festival chairwoman Linda Molto said an application to hold the 2014 fishing festival is being prepared and that festival themes are currently being considered. Molto said a possible theme for the next festival is “Wishing I was fishing,” but asked the members to bring their ideas to the Aug. 5 board meeting.

FISH still awaits approval of a $250,000 Southwest Florida Water Management District grant to be put toward restoration of the 95-acre FISH preserve.

The board has worked on the grant for several years and has been assured the funding will be approved. Preserve acting chair Karen Bell said a meeting with Swiftmud would take place soon to discuss when the funds will be available.

Bell also reported that fishing activity was slowed by the recent stormy weather and that fishers were focusing their time on boat and gear maintenance in advance of improving weather.

July 4 fight on the beach sparks arrest

22-year-old Bradenton man was arrested for felony aggravated battery and the use of a deadly weapon July 4 after injuring two men with a glass bottle.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Holmes Beach police responded to a fight at the 77th Street beach access. Upon arrival, several witnesses pointed toward a man screaming and yelling at someone near a golf cart.

Witnesses said Vincent Gangi hit another man in the back of the head with a glass bottle.

According to the report, when the bottle struck the first victim, it broke and shattered into the face of another man standing nearby, causing lacerations that required stitches.

Gangi was placed under arrest and secured in a patrol vehicle while the second victim, holding a bloody rag to his face, was attended to and EMS notified.

Witnesses said Gangi started a fight with the first victim and it was during the altercation that he picked up the bottle and hit the first victim in the head.

Following the striking of the first victim that also injured the second victim, police reported Gangi also suffered injuries when several of the victim’s friends jumped on him. Gangi was transported to the hospital for treatment.

Upon his release, Gangi was transported and booked into the Manatee County jail for felony aggravated battery and felony use of a deadly weapon.

He also had a prior arrest on Jan. 31 for aggravated battery and use of a deadly weapon, and received supervised release. The aggravated battery charge was dropped by the state attorney.

Gangi was released July 6 on bond. He is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Friday, July 26, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.