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    Drownings probably accidents, police say

    The bodies of a Clearwater Beach resident who used a wheelchair and a man from England were found in the water Monday.

    By DEBORAH HIRSCH and CHRIS TISCH
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 15, 2002


    CLEARWATER -- One man seemed a permanent fixture on Clearwater Beach. The other had only enjoyed Florida's sea and sun for three months.

    Police said they think both men died in unrelated accidental drownings over the last few days. Both men's bodies were found floating in the water Monday.

    A water scooter operator found one man in Clearwater Harbor near St. Joseph's Sound on Monday afternoon. Police have identified him as Danny John Tarling, 25, of Brentwood, England. Tarling had been in Florida about three months. He lived on Clarine Way in Dunedin, police said.

    A second man was found Monday evening near the Clearwater Beach Recreation Complex, 69 Bay Esplanade, after his wheelchair fell into the water. Police said Martin Alt, 68, of 705 Bruce St., apparently drowned after he fell in the water.

    Friends and neighbors said Alt had lived on Clearwater Beach for many years, and was known to steer his motorized wheelchair from one end of the beach to the other. Residents said they saw Alt in his wheelchair Monday afternoon.

    But at some point, Alt ventured to a sea wall and fell over it in his wheelchair. Bystanders later saw Alt's body in shallow water near his wheelchair. Paramedics who responded found Alt dead.

    No one actually saw Alt go in the water, but foul play was not suspected. Still, police will continue their investigation, Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor said.

    Police also don't suspect foul play in Tarling's death. He was boating with friends Saturday night when he apparently went missing.

    The friends told police that toward midnight, they stopped to talk on a spoil island on their way back to Dunedin. Tarling decided to go swimming, police said.

    Ready to head home sometime later, the friends searched for Tarling. Because they could not find him, they hurried home for a search light and came back to examine the area. The friends gave up their search without calling the police, not knowing whether Tarling had just decided to get home on his own.

    "Our impression is that would not be out of character for him," Shelor said.

    But after he didn't come home, Tarling's friends called police to report him missing about the time his body was recovered Monday, Shelor said.

    A preliminary autopsy shows that Tarling might have been in the water since about 3 a.m. Sunday.

    "We're pretty comfortable that it was nothing criminal," Shelor said.

    -- Deborah Hirsch can be reached at 893-8737 or hirsch@sptimes.com. Chris Tisch can be reached at 445-4156 or tisch@sptimes.com.

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