Narrow passageways and the size of the victim complicate the work of rescuers after a man falls 20 feet through a boat's roof.
By KATHERINE GAZELLA
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001
TARPON SPRINGS -- The injuries were not life-threatening, but it took rescuers from several mid Pinellas fire departments an hour Tuesday to rescue a big man who fell into a small space.
George McCarty was walking on the roof of the Capt. Dexter shrimp boat Tuesday afternoon when he stepped on a loose board and fell 20 feet to the hard floor of the hull, authorities said.
The job of rescuing McCarty was complicated by the tight passageways and the fact that he weighs more than 350 pounds, said Kevin Bowman, deputy chief of the Tarpon Springs Fire Department.
Bowman said McCarty, 39, of Tampa was installing electronic equipment in the boat about noon. Some of the roof had been cut out so a new engine could be installed, and the cut-out rectangular piece was placed perpendicularly on top of the opening, Bowman said.
McCarty stepped on the board and fell straight to the boat's bottom, which is made of steel and wood, Bowman said.
"It was approximately 20 feet to a very hard bottom," he said.
McCarty, a co-owner of Sound Marine Electronics in Tampa, was conscious and complaining of back pain as he lay on the bottom of the boat, said Jimmy Schrader of Hudson, who works on a nearby shrimp boat and was on the Capt. Dexter with McCarty.
Technical rescue teams from fire departments in Clearwater, Largo and Pinellas Park stabilized him in a metal basket and inched him up an angled ladder.
More than a dozen firefighters, paramedics and other rescuers gathered around the boat, on the north side of the Anclote River, and helped to lift McCarty out of the doorway of the boat and on to a stretcher.
"Nice and easy," shouted Pete Huffman, the assistant training chief of Clearwater Fire & Rescue, as the team pulled a long blue rope attached to the basket that carried McCarty. "Haul slow."
Eight men and women slowly lowered him to the ground, then lifted him on a stretcher. He was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he was in fair condition Tuesday evening.
He had injuries to his ankle and leg, and possibly had back injuries, Huffman said.
McCarty was working on the radar system on the Capt. Dexter, said John Broderick, McCarty's business partner and co-founder of Sound Marine Electronics.
The two men started the company, which does electronics work on boats and ships, in 1987, he said.
"It's a dangerous job," he said. "But this is our very first accident."
The captain of the boat did not want to comment or give his name Tuesday.
Broderick said the captain was shaken up by the incident, but Broderick told him not to be concerned.
"We told him, "Don't worry about it,' " he said. "Things like this happen."
- Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182.