Robert Turnball and Victor Vasquez of Indian Rocks Beach, Florida were involved in a water scooter boating accident on March 10th. The accident killed 40-year-old Vasquez, according to representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The crash occurred at around 8:30 p.m. near the 2500 block of Bay Blvd. Charges may be filed against Robert Turnball, Vasquez’ 34-year-old friend and roommate who was piloting the personal watercraft at the time of the accident. It is not clear whether he has retained a private criminal defense attorney.
According to reports, Vasquez and Turnball went out for a nighttime ride of Turnbull’s personal watercraft. Both men wore life vests, but in the dark Turnbull ended up crashing into a ‘Slow’ sign located in the water just north of the Bellaire Causeway. It is unclear how fast Turnbull was going at the time or whether he had navigation lights on his craft.
The impact of the collision threw both Turnball and Vasquez from the vehicle. Authorities are currently investigating the incident in order to determine the cause of Vasquez’s death. Officials hypothesize the Vasquez hit his head on an unidentified object and was knocked unconscious, then died of either lack of air or trauma.
Turnbull emerged with only minor injuries and was able to pull Vasquez from the water. He attempted to revive him onshore, then brought him back to their home and administered CPR. He called authorities to try to save his friend, but emergency workers were similarly unsuccessful in their attempts to revive Vasquez. Vasquez was pronounced dead at the scene. Turnbull let authorities take a blood sample to prove that he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash.
Neighbors told the press that Vasquez was well-liked in the area. “[He was] a very nice, very good looking boy. It’s very sad to see this,” said one neigbor. She told the media that Vasquez had just gotten back from visiting his parents in Puerto Rico. “I feel this is almost, like he went home to say goodbye to the parents,” she said.
Florida law prohibits operating personal watercraft from half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise for safety reasons. The boating accident that killed Vasquez occurred at 8:30 p.m.; sunset that day was at 6:05 p.m.
Another violator of this law ended up dead earlier this year. 30-year-old Ryan Burke died at around 3:30 a.m. on January 28th when his personal watercraft crashed into another personal watercraft, hurling him and a female passenger from the vehicle. Neither him nor the woman were wearing life jackets, another violation of Florida law.
29-year-old Brian Sean Lopez, the second personal watercraft driver in the incident, was unhurt. He was able to pull the woman to shore. The woman ended up having to undergo surgery for her injuries; her mother told the press that her daughter was “pretty banged up… when the hospital calls you at 4:30 in the morning and tells you that your daughter has been in a jet ski accident, you’re like… you’re not expecting a jet ski accident at 3 o’clock in the morning on the lake I live on,” she told the press.