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Sept. 7, 2003
CONTACT: Karen Parker (386) 758-0525

A Jacksonville man died Saturday afternoon in a boating accident on the St. Johns River near Huguenot Memorial Park in Jacksonville.

The victim was Jonathan Hunter Watkins, 19, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Investigator Paul Graham.

According to Graham, a personal watercraft with an operator and two passengers was pulling an inner tube with four passengers. The jet ski was traveling back to the Alimacani Boat Ramp where it had been launched.  The jet ski was only traveling about four or five miles per hour, Graham explained.

The operator of the jet ski was Michael Chandler, 42. His son, Joshua Chandler, 22, and Adam Frost, 17, were the jet ski passengers. Watkins, Ben Moore, 16, Rodney Stone, 16, and Donald Bowers, 17, were all riding the tube.

One of the tube passengers fell off into the water. When the jet ski turned around to pick up the tube passenger, it flipped, ejecting everyone into the water. Chandler managed to get back on the jet ski and began picking everyone out of the water, Graham said.

“They had gotten close to the moored construction barges by the bridge. The river’s current is extremely strong and fast. The operator pulled Frost and Bowers away from the barges. Frost and Bowers were pushed along side the barges and were later picked up by other recreational craft in the area,” Graham said.

The jet ski then flipped again, and everyone was dragged by the current to the barges.

“The operator, Michael Chandler, and Moore were rescued from the front of the barge. Chandler had grabbed onto the jet ski, and Moore was hanging onto a rope from the barge.

“Watkins, Joshua Chandler and Stone were dragged under the barge. Chandler and Stone were pushed completely under the barge to the other side. Watkins was caught up in something under barge and drowned,” said Graham.

Rescuers were called to the Alimacani Boat Ramp about 2:40 p.m. Watkins’ body was recovered Saturday evening.

“Alcohol and speed were not factors in this accident, and everyone was wearing life jackets,” Graham said.

The accident is still under investigation.




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