Drowning victim found

Published April 4, 2007

SPRING HILL - Loved ones screamed and cried as they stood on shore and watched divers pull the body of a 49-year-old Spring Hill man from the shallow waters of Hunters Lake.

After an all-night search, the body of James Patrick Sharkey, of 509 Edgehill Ave., was finally located just before 11 a.m. Tuesday.

While making a hard left turn on the water, Sharkey and three others were thrown from a 20-foot speedboat with a 175-horsepower engine around 6:15 p.m. Monday.

Everyone but Sharkey came to the surface.

Investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which handles boating safety, believe Sharkey was operating the boat at the time of the accident.

"But we don't have that confirmed," said Gary Morse, Fish and Wildlife spokesman. "There are a lot more interviews to be done."

He added that the names of the others involved in the accident, along with the owner of the boat, would not be released Tuesday. There are no rules against speedboats on the lake, he said.

With the aid of a helicopter, divers searched the water for more than 15 hours. The 300-acre lake is just north of Pasco County, near U.S. 19.

While drought and evaporation took a toll in the 1990s, Hunters Lake was the site of a water scooter accident that killed a 14-year-old girl in 1995.

The natural lake, which has some man-made canals, is surrounded by private homes originally built by the Deltona Corp. Both residents and those who don't live in the neighborhood enjoy the water.

Roxanne Nelson, Sharkey's girlfriend of 10 years, said the news was devastating.

Police put up yellow caution tape to keep out curious onlookers from her back yard on Kimball Court, which is on the lake. Officials used her home and the back yards of others for the search.

The 47-year-old ran out of her home to the edge of the water as divers approached with Sharkey's body in a boat.

"It's not real," she said. "This can't be real. I feel like I'm dead."

Nelson's daughter, 23-year-old Dana, said that Sharkey was the kind of guy who was always around to help. He worked for a roofing company in Brooksville.

"He was just a good person," she said.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or 352 848-1432.