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Retrieving Anchor Caused Capsize OF NFL Players' Boat

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, March 27, 2009 10:59 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Vacation Safety, Maritime Accident, Fishing Boat, Boating Safety

The men in the Gulf were trying to pull up an anchor when their boat flipped, killing three of the four aborad.



IMAGE SOURCE:  Bay News 9 Web site, Corey Smith, top left, Marquis Cooper, top right, Will Bleakley, bottom left and Nick Schuyler, bottom right.


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.    #


Posted by Gerry McGill
Saturday, March 28, 2009 4:29 PM EST

Jane, do you have a copy of the FWC accident report? Also please see my blog on this subject on the IB Mississippi blog.

Anonymous User
Posted by Steve Lombardi
Monday, April 06, 2009 11:16 AM EST

I wish I could read what the one survivor stated about how they attempted to free the anchor. Having grown up on the coast of Rhode Island (and having been rescued by the Coast Guard, for what amounted to a stupid idea to tie the mainsail so everyone inside could really make the boat keel.) I have an idea about what they attempted and it was a mistake from the start. Captain Krause is probably being misquoted. He is talking about dislodging the anchor that was stuck on the bottom. More than likely attempts to pull the anchor up manually failed to free the anchor from whatever it was stuck on. After manual attempts failed they probably considered using the power of the engine by revving the engine in forward and reverse, and out of frustration revved it higher and higher; which when going either forward and in reverse caused the side of the boat with the anchor line on it to fall below the water line resulting in the boat’s capsizing. Of course if it were done extremely fast would throw all aboard into the water. Once in the water they needed to get lifejackets on (and being so far out they probably needed a life raft of some sort) and to stay right the boat, a feat that would be very difficult but not impossible. First they should have taken turns diving under to retrieve the vests and remove everything they could from inside the boat. The boat appears to have had an outboard motor which could have had the motor removed with a couple of hand turning levers. I would have dropped that into the ocean because at that point it had little value and getting out of the water to avoid hypothermia would be more important. Next, they needed to position themselves all on one side of the boat and to stand on the gunnels while (on a sail boat you can hold onto the ) pulling across the bottom by way of fixed rope across the bottom and onto the frame of the roof on the opposite side. This creates leverage for “turtleing” the boat back right side up. With the weight of four football players they should have been able to be right the boat. One person gets inside and starts bailing while the others hang onto the sides. Eventually everyone gets inside and bails till it’s dry. They then sit and wait for the Coast Guard.

Now a bit about revving the engine throttle to free the anchor; it’s not a very smart thing to do. We all have done it but this is what can happen; and most boat owners know it. Cut the line and forget the anchor. First try moving in different directions but only if the line hasn’t shortened up so much that you can’t move the boat in any one direction without the bow dropping down dangerously close towards the water line.

Jerry, I did find the FWC report in Adobe format. Its 12 pages long and I’m going to read it and post later today. A quick scan indicates my hunch is correct.

Comments for this article are closed.

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