Florida Keys News
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
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2 dead, 2 hospitalized in separate incidents on the water

The last few days have been busy, and tragic, for the Coast Guard and emergency responders in the wake of two snorkeling deaths and two other people who were rescued all in separate cases.

The first of the two deaths occurred Thursday offshore of Marathon when Lesley Clark, 54, of Pennsylvania, reportedly began having problems with a pacemaker and started coughing up blood about 2:30 p.m. while aboard a dive boat operated by Sea Dog Charters, according to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

Clark was with a group of snorkelers snorkeling at Sombrero Light when she was pulled from the water and taken to shore by the Coast Guard, Lt. Peter Bermont said.

A friend of Clark's told responders she was on multiple medications as well as a pacemaker. Paramedics took her to Fishermen's Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, reports say.

An autopsy will be performed to determine cause of death.

About an hour after that incident, personnel from Coast Guard Station Islamorada responded to a call about an 11-year-old girl complaining of severe cramps near Molasses Reef. A Coast Guard response vessel took the girl to Mariners Hospital, where she was later listed in stable condition, Bermont said.

On Friday, the LifeNet helicopter based at Lower Keys Medical Center was called to the Dry Tortugas after 59-year-old Donald Tinker of Texas was found unresponsive in the water while snorkeling with his wife, according to sheriff's office reports.

The wife told deputies at the hospital that she and Tinker began snorkeling shortly after lunch, but she was having trouble with her mask so she went back to shore, reports say. When she returned to the water she couldn't find Tinker.

A mate from the Key West-based Yankee Freedom III ferry that takes customers to the national park found Tinker, pulled him from the water and began performing CPR with the help of others, said a ferry customer who asked not to be named.

The customer reported very rough seas that day and he praised the crew.

"They were all extremely professional and let the wife ride in the wheelhouse on the way back to Key West so she wasn't surrounded by 150 people," the customer said.

He added that he is CPR certified and it was clear to him that Tinker was not going to make it due to the amount of time the crew spent performing CPR. He had children with him and said he wanted to shield them from much of the activity.

Park rangers called for the helicopter and Tinker was flown to Lower Keys Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 3:13 p.m. Friday, reports state.

An autopsy will also be performed to determine cause of death.

Later Friday, Coast Guard Station Islamorada personnel responded to reports of a 68-year-old man having a heart attack around 11 p.m. near Pumpkin Key while aboard a 43-foot boat. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers arrived first and took the man to shore. From there he was transported to Mariner's Hospital.

He was alive and in stable condition when he was brought ashore, said FWC spokesman Bobby Dube.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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