Body found floating in gulf

The Spring Hill man died on a weekend of heavy boating traffic off Hernando Beach.

Published May 29, 2007

HERNANDO BEACH - The record pace of Florida boating deaths maintained its momentum this weekend when a Spring Hill man died Sunday afternoon off Hernando Beach.

Jay Mitchell Chapman, 45, was found floating face down in the gulf, said Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Chapman's personal watercraft was also found.

A boater called authorities at 2:42 p.m. Sunday, Morse said. It's unclear how Chapman ended up in the water. He was brought to the dock of a home on Flamingo Boulevard in Hernando Beach, where Hernando Beach fire volunteers continued to try to revive him. Chapman was pronounced dead at Oak Hill Hospital.

There were no signs of foul play, and Chapman's death is being investigated as a boating accident, Morse said.

So far this year, at least 34 people have died in Florida boating accidents, in addition to Chapman. At least three more are missing.

No one answered the door Monday afternoon at Chapman's home on Carrin Road.

Hernando Beach residents Frank and Donna Letvichik, who were boating in the area about the time Chapman's body and scooter were found, said that traffic on the water in the Hernando Beach area had been particularly heavy Sunday.

"It's probably one of the busiest Memorial Day weekends I've ever seen," Frank Letvichik said. "It was crazy out there. There must have been 200 to 250 boats out there. And a lot of them were nuts."

It was the second possible boating accident in the area in less than two weeks. Michael Curl, 50, of Hernando Beach disappeared while fishing off the Pasco coast. Other boaters found his empty boat on May 18.

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or 352 754-6127.

Fast Facts:

34 people killed so far this year in Florida boating accidents.

3 people missing in boating incidents.

2 serious boating incidents in the area in less than two weeks.