Attempts to free an anchor stuck into the mud cost the lives of two NFL players and another man in the Gulf of Mexico last month.
Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, NFL free agent Corey Smith, and former University of South Florida’s William Bleakley, and Nick Schuyler all went overboard. Only Schuyler survived.
The four friends left Clearwater, Florida on the morning of Feb 28. Eventually they anchored Cooper's 21-foot fishing boat 50 miles off the coast in what’s known as the Florida Middle Grounds at about a 138 foot depth for a day of fishing.
At 5:30 pm they attempted to retrieve the anchor from the bow but it was stuck on the bottom and could not be brought up. By then, an arriving cold front was creating rough conditions in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Capt. Andy Krause, a spokesman appearing on CNN, “In order lodge the anchor from the bottom the men tied off anchor line to the port side lifting ring on the transom of the vessel. The anchor line was substantially shortened at this point and the 200-hp engine put in gear. Power was applied which caused the vessel to lurch to the left and capsize. It happened so quickly the four men were immediately ejected from the vessel.”
The report by the commission says the group failed to leave enough slack in the anchor line to compensate for conditions in the Gulf.
If they had cut the rope they would have lost an anchor and about $80 to $100, but the event could have been prevented, say investigators.
“Well, he had lost an anchor the previous weekend," said FWC Investigator Jim Manson to Bay News 9. "Maybe he didn't want to lose another anchor the following weekend."
The four men had tried to sit on the top of the boat together but that didn’t work. One by one the men were taken over by hypothermia. Cooper died after 12 hours. The other men took off their life jackets because of their mental state caused by hypothermia.
Schuyler, who was hospitalized after being rescued the following Monday on top of the overturned boat, says the four men clung to the boat at first, but later separated. #