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13 saved after boat sinks near Keewaydin Island

There were scary moments for more than a dozen people after their boat started sinking. Some of the people on board didn’t know how to swim.

Sunday, Naples Fire Department rescue crews got 13 people back to land safely and then removed the boat from the water Monday after it had sunk.

A Marco Island man had a boat full of friends and family when one of the engines failed. Some people on board had never been on a boat before and didn’t know how to swim.

The experienced captain didn’t think the waves would swallow his boat, leaving his crew in deep water.

“A lot of people on the boat got a little nervous. They didn’t know how to swim,” Billy Connelly said. “I just stayed on the boat and told everyone, ‘Hold each other’s hands. Stay together. stay together.’”

Connelly won’t be able to save his boat, but he’s thankful he and 12 others survived after a day with friends on the water turned dangerous.

“The bilge pump died; one of the engines died,” Connelly explained.

Things got worse quickly for the group that was stuck about a mile from Keewaydin Island.

“The waves were actually three to four-footers, started coming over the front of the boat, and within two minutes, the boat was going down, got life jackets for everybody,” Connelly said.

Naples firefighters say the boat was completely underwater by the time rescue crews answered Connelly’s call for help.

“There were multiple victims in the water, people in the water,” Lt. William Warren said. “They were kind of clinging to life vests and coolers ”

Everybody was shaken up, but the owner is looking on the bright side.

“But everybody is OK,” Connelly said. “Thank God.”

Naples firefighters say boaters should always have life jackets aboard and a GPS system so you can get help if needed.

“Get a new boat and start a new day tomorrow,” Connelly said.

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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