3470 Club Center Boulevard, Naples, FL
Collier County Traffic Fatalities -- Maps, Database
NAPLES — A Naples woman who lost her husband of 40 years last month was the victim of a tragic accident Tuesday night inside the Fiddler’s Creek development near Marco Island.
Mary J. Catania, 58, was pronounced dead on the banks of a retention pond where her 2009 silver Hyundai Sonata sank, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, which has an ongoing investigation into the death.
“We got a call at 9:04 p.m. with someone saying their vehicle had gone into a body of water in the Fiddler’s Creek area,” Collier County Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Karie Partington said of how the search began.
Radio reports suggested the caller first described the water as having risen to her waist, and dispatchers lost contact when the water had risen to the roof of the car.
The Sheriff’s Office, Collier EMS, Isle of Capri Fire and Fiddler’s Creek Community Patrol searched canals and lakes in the area of Fiddler’s Creek, which is off Collier Boulevard south of U.S. 41.
Partington said Sheriff’s Office dispatchers “pinged” Catania’s cell phone attempting to determine its location. Two helicopters also searched, including MedFlight and a Sheriff’s Office helicopter that launched shortly after the call with a member of the Sheriff’s Office dive team inside.
Around 9:30 p.m., radio reports suggested the Sheriff’s Office learned the glow of headlights and rising bubbles could be seen coming from a pond in the development.
The Sheriff’s Office helicopter landed in the area of the pond, and Partington later confirmed the location had been discovered.
“The dive team is responding,” Partington said at the time. “At this point, it looks like it will be a recovery.”
FHP officials were then called to investigate.
The Hyundai was pulled from the pond, located west of the intersection of Sandpiper Drive and Fiddler’s Creek Parkway about two miles east of the community’s main entrance.
FHP officials concluded Catania was driving north on Sandpiper Drive toward Fiddler’s Creek Parkway before the accident. At the intersection, for unknown reasons Catania did not stop, drove over the curb and onto the north shoulder of Fiddler’s Creek Parkway, struck shrubbery, and then went into the lake, an FHP report said. Catania was wearing her seatbelt, the report said.
Catania is survived by three children, Marie Teckmyer, Michael Catania, and Lena Catania. Rick Teckmyer, husband to Marie Teckmyer, said the family is originally from Cleveland.
“She and her husband retired to Naples a few years ago,” Rick Teckmyer said.
Charles Richard Catania Jr., Mary Catania’s husband, passed away unexpectedly Oct. 2 at 63.
“It’s been a difficult month,” Rick Teckmyer said. The family held a memorial service for Charles Catania on Saturday in Cleveland.
An August 2010 study of vehicle submersions in the peer-reviewed journal Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine reported such accidents have a higher mortality rate than any other type of single car accident and lead to 400 North American deaths annually.
The study found contradictory and incorrect advice on how to escape and poor public perception of how to escape successfully from such accidents were among the probable contributors to the high mortality rate.
After conducting 35 simulated vehicle submersions, the researchers determined drivers and passengers should release their seat belts as soon as the car hits the water, then open windows (not doors), release children from restraints and bring them close to an adult, and then get out of the car through the windows, with children exiting immediately before an adult.
A Daily News analysis of 2009 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data found Florida had 27 fatal accidents involving immersion, the highest number reported by any state. Louisiana and California, which ranked second, had 16 such accidents in 2009.