It is with a renewed spirit and heavy heart that I am writing this blog. Very conflicting statement I know, but you MUST read on to understand what chain of events has led to the previous statement! On Friday night, Sept. 4th at 11:00 p.m.- Jeff and I set out on a late night paddle and possible camp out on one of our local intra-coastal islands in Boca Ciega Bay. We paddled from the causeway at Madeira Beach out to Johns’ Pass(3 miles), through the pass to the gulf. We stopped on the beach to stretch and relax- listening to Reggae music playing in the distance at Gators on the Pass(local watering hole).
We were approached by a Police truck on the beach, the officer asked “what are we doing tonight?” To me this was kinda a silly question as Jeff and I were standing there next to 2 Kayaks and were in full paddling gear. I was half tempted to say we were out for a game of late night Beach Golf–“Here’s your SIGN”!
But decided to be polite and explained we were out enjoying the moonlight to paddle in. He informed us that the beach closes from 1 a.m. till 5 a.m.- couldn’t help but wonder what the local Indians would have said to that statement back 100 years ago…
Jeff and I left the beach (1:15 a.m.) and quickly paddled over to Archie’s Island(1-1/4 miles), back in the Intra-coastal waterway. We pitched the tent and drifted swiftly to sleep (2:45 a.m.) with the sounds of the water lapping at the shore and wind moving through the islands trees and sea grasses.
We awoke to a beautiful sunrise and nice gentle sea breeze(7:15 a.m). We got up and packed up our gear and I made Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal for Jeff and I for breakfast.
We were eating breakfast and reflecting on a wonderful nights paddle and how refreshed we were even though we only had about 4 hrs. sleep.
That’s when we heard the engine of a small seaplane buzzing around!
We finished breakfast and got into our yaks and started to head back to the causeway, as we paddled along we were watching the seaplane skim across the water, then fly through the air. At one point the plane flew directly over us! I rolled with a paddle float and Jeff thought that they waved at us. Jeff and I both remarked how cool it was.
< you can hear the plane pass over us in this video >
Then it happened; as the plane flew out towards Johns’ Pass, Jeff and I heard a loud “POP” sound and the plane looked like it just ran into a wall with an abrupt stop, followed by a rapid nose dive. It fell straight down from estimated height of about 225 feet, into about 7 feet of water. Jeff and I quickly paddled over to the site of impact and discovered a crowd of civilian rescuers all trying to free 2 people that were still strapped in and trapped under water.
Unfortunately in the end neither man survived the crash as they both sustained serious trauma from the impact. A retired fire fighter and I managed to recover one of them (within 20 min.) with the help of others and we turned him over to rescue officials that soon showed up on scene. The other person was eventually recovered by rescue officials within less than 1 hour from the time of impact.
What a tragic event and emotional roller coaster, we went from being on top of the world and fully refreshed to being totally somber and mentally/physically drained. I can’t speak for Jeff, but believe me as tragic as this event was. In my opinion it was a paddle I soon won’t forget and has taught me once again the preciousness of life and how fast it can end. We were some of the last people to see those 2 men alive, they sure looked like they were having fun. To their families God Bless You and Keep You through these tough times! Know God has a plan for all things that happen, even if we don’t understand the BIG picture!
Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved with this event, especially the 2 men in the plane, and all those that took the time to call 911 or were in some way involved in the initial Rescue attempts and susequent recovery of the 2 men’s bodies.
Make sure You take the TIME to say I Love You, and HUG your wife,husband,partner,children,friends,family as often as you can!!!!!!!!! WE ARE NOT PROMISED TOMORROW!! LIVE AND LOVE LIFE!!
Thankful but still Reflecting,