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Florida Maritime Accident Lawyer

How Long can you Tread Water? About 30 minutes is the max

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Editor: Gabrielle D'Alemberte
Profession: Florida Maritime Attorney

July 10, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Category: Boating Accidents

There is a lot to be learned from a July 4th boating accident in Santa Rosa Sound near Gulf Breeze.

Have you ever heard of "bobbing?' Bobbing is a water survival technique taught to Navy pilots which enables them to survive in the water for an extended period of time without tiring out. Some pilots have been known to be able to bob for up to 24 hours. I've personally gone over an hour, without any adverse effects (except boredom).

Many people think that because they can swim or tread water, that they can survive in the water until a rescuer comes. Unfortunately, they are wrong. An accident in Santa Rosa Sound near Gulf Breeze Florida shows that the most that people can tread water is about 30 minutes before they tire out and slip below the surface.

Five people were aboard the 14 foot boat that capsized when a larger boat passed them, throwing a wake which flipped the boat over. There were only two PFD's readily available.

"We didn't even see it coming," said Alvin Myles Lewis, 22, a passenger and friend of boat owner Jerry Stewart who was one of the deceased.

Thirty minutes later, Lewis would be rescued along with the only two passengers wearing life vests -- the boat owner's son, 10-year-old Jerreld Stewart, and Rofiesha Watts, 22.

Boat owner Jerry Stewart, 44, and Ladarell Saunders, 26, -- Watts' boyfriend -- disappeared into the water. Their bodies were found late Wednesday.

Lewis said Stewart was "like a second father to me. I've known Jerry since I was 2 years old."

Lewis said he heard Jerry Stewart calling for him right after the boat flipped. He swam over to try to help him stay afloat, but Stewart panicked and started to pull him down. Lewis had to find another way to help.

"I was swimming around trying to find a life vest for him," he said. "I was trying to tell everyone to just relax, but they were panicking." Lewis said he didn't find a vest but came across a paddle in the water.

"I was waving the paddle in the sky, hoping somebody would stop," he said.

It was 30 minutes before charter boat captain Jerry Andrews and his wife, out for a day of recreational boating, spotted them and stopped to help, Lewis said.

"So many boats passed us by," he said. "I owe my life to (Jerry Andrews)."

It was about this time that Lewis lost sight of Stewart and Saunders.

"I saw Jerry and (Ladarell) right up until the boat came up," he said. "I wish I could have done more for Jerry. He meant the world to me."

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