Officials identify body found on bank of St. Lucie River as missing boaterApril 13th, 2011 by TCPalm.com
By Will Greenlee
Authorities released the identity of the body about 1 p.m. Wednesday after the body was found three hours prior on shore behind a home in the 100 block of South River Road in Sewall’s Point. Officials had been searching the area for the 39-year-old Vero Beach resident since he was ejected from a boat Monday afternoon.
Kenny Pearson, a caretaker at the Bay Tree Lodge on South River Road, found the body at the edge of the St. Lucie River while he was trimming trees. He said the body was clad in board shorts.
“I was walking up the beach,” Pearson said. “He was laying on the beach on the edge of the water, half water, half beach, face down.”
Pearson said he immediately dialed 911.
“It freaked me out for the first few minutes,” Pearson said.
Crews from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other agencies had continued their search Wednesday morning for the 39-year-old professional bass angler after boaters pulled his friend Amy Reede, 38, out of the water Monday afternoon.
Reede, of Ohio, was rescued by a couple returning from a fishing trip after they spotted a small, unmanned Boston Whaler spinning fast in tight circles near the Evans Crary Bridge, which links Stuart and Sewall’s Point.
She was flown to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce and was discharged Tuesday, according to officials and a hospital spokeswoman.
Reede told her rescuers Hill had been hit by the propeller, losing an arm before drifting away. She recounted the ordeal that she and Hill went through:
“First he was driving and we were approaching the bridge and he went to put it into slowdown neutral because we were getting into a slow zone. And the next thing I know, I woke up and I was trying to find the top of the water.”
FWC Lt. Vann Streety on Tuesday said details about the incident are still forthcoming.
“We’re conducting follow-up investigations, follow-up interviews.”
The boat was taken to FWC’s evidence compound in Jupiter.
“We’ll be going over the vessel to determine how this possibly happened based on the condition the vessel is as we found it and the statements that we get from not only witnesses but … Ms. Reede,” Streety said. “We’ll piece all this together.”
Hill’s Facebook page showed his anticipation for the fishing trip according to a message posted 5:59 a.m. Monday, the day of the incident: “SAILFISH ALLEY TODAY, PEOPLE!”
Hill’s friend Allison Brown, 35, said he loved bass fishing and taught her son the sport by giving him a fishing rod.
“He is an awesome person,” Brown said Tuesday evening while watching television news coverage of the accident. “He was such a go-getter.”
Hill was active in the county recreation leagues as a coach for his son’s youth football team.
“He’s my best friend and my role model,” said his son, Shea Hill 14, of Vero Beach.
Hill, a 1991 graduate of Okeechobee High School, served in the U.S. Marine Corps during Desert Storm and the conflict in Somalia, Schirard said.
In 1999, Hill was the keynote speaker at the Veterans Day ceremony in Vero Beach.
“The most precious thing for me is freedom, and I thank each of you for that,” Hill is quoted as saying to veterans in a 1999 Press Journal article.