UPDATE: Two dead after boat capsizes in Golden Gate Estates

SCOTT MCINTYRE/Staff
A grief counselor with the Collier County Sheriff's Office tries to console the sister of the female drowning victim as she begins to weep after finding out that her sister has died in a boating accident where a small boat capsized in a canal in Golden Gate Estates on Monday afternoon. One woman and one man drowned and two other men survived. The group were combing the canal for palm berries when the boat capsized.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo

SCOTT MCINTYRE/Staff A grief counselor with the Collier County Sheriff's Office tries to console the sister of the female drowning victim as she begins to weep after finding out that her sister has died in a boating accident where a small boat capsized in a canal in Golden Gate Estates on Monday afternoon. One woman and one man drowned and two other men survived. The group were combing the canal for palm berries when the boat capsized.

2 dead after boat capsizes in Collier

Boat capsized in Golden Gate Estates canal.

A Sheriff's Office dive team has been sent to assist with boaters in distress at Everglades Boulevard and 34th Avenue Southeast.

Photo by JACOB CARPENTER // Buy this photo

A Sheriff's Office dive team has been sent to assist with boaters in distress at Everglades Boulevard and 34th Avenue Southeast.

— Three men and a woman crowded onto a small jon boat Monday, setting out across a narrow canal in southern Golden Gate Estates.

Their intentions were innocuous, if technically illegal: to pick, then sell, saw palmetto berries, hoping to scratch together a few bucks.

Somewhere along the way, at an exact time that remains unknown, their boat capsized. None could swim, and none had life preservers.

As a result, two of them — a man and a woman, both Guatemalans, both living in Immokalee — died and two others survived following their rescue Monday afternoon, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said.

The names of the victims and survivors, who are all believed to be in their 30s, weren’t available Monday night. Officials were still trying to locate family members of the victims. A relative of the woman was on-scene Monday night, receiving grief assistance from Collier County sheriff’s officials.

Fish and Wildlife spokesman Jorge Pino said the woman drowned and the man let go of the vessel after clinging to it, unable to keep himself afloat. His body was recovered a few hours after a dive team arrived on site.

One survivor risked paddling to shore, reaching land and running down the dirt road of 34th Avenue Southeast to flag down help.

“It’s not a very wide canal, but considering that he did not know how to swim either, it was quite a feat that he was at least able to struggle his way to swim his way to shore,” Pino said.

The two survivors were residents of Guatemala and Mexico, respectively, and living in Immokalee. They were reluctant to speak with officials out of fear, Pino said.

The quartet shoved off from 34th Avenue Southeast, one of many rural roads that run perpendicular to Everglades Boulevard.

Frank Oliva, who sometimes fishes at the site with his granddaughter, called the waters “pretty quiet.”

“I’ve never seen a boat there,” Oliva said Monday near the scene. “That’s why I’m surprised.”

What caused the boat to capsize remains under investigation. Pino said the surviving boaters couldn’t recall how long they were stranded before help arrived.

“They lost some sense of time as a result of being out here,” Pino said. “It could have seemed like hours to them. It could have been an hour or less in reality.”

Boats are allowed on the canal, but picking saw palmetto berries in the wrong place and without a permit is a misdemeanor, Pino said.

“They’re not necessarily very valuable,” Pino said, “but if you were to put in a hard day’s work, you could make a decent amount of money. And obviously money was the motivator for them.”

POSTED EARLIER:

Two temporary residents of Immokalee died when their small boat capsized in a Golden Gate Estates canal Monday.

A man and woman, both between the ages of 35 and 45 and both residents of Guatemala, were among four in a jon boat near Everglades Boulevard and 34th Avenue Southeast, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino said. None of the four on board could swim, and no life preservers were present.

Pino said the quartet was picking saw palmetto berries near the canal when the boat capsized. One woman drowned and a man clutching the boat let go, also drowning, Pino said. His body was recovered within a few hours of emergency responders arriving on scene Monday afternoon.

Pino said one survivor swam to shore and flagged down a passing driver, who called for help. It's unknown how long the four were in the water before help arrived.

Officials were trying to notify the victims' families in Guatemala before releasing their identities. The two survivors are residents of Guatemala and Mexico, respectively.

The four people were acquaintances and not related, Pino said.

POSTED EARLIER:

A second person is confirmed dead after a boat capsized in a canal in Golden Gate Estates on Monday afternoon.

Officer Jorge Pino of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said a second person's body was recovered from the canal. Two of the four people on the aluminum jon boat were able to swim to shore safely, he said.

Investigators still are trying to determine what happened to the boat, which capsized near Everglades Boulevard and 34th Avenue Southeast.

As of 6:25 p.m., officials had not identified the victims or the survivors.


POSTED EARLIER:

One person is dead and another missing after a boat capsized in a fresh-water canal Monday afternoon in Golden Gate Estates.

There were two survivors from the jon boat, which capsized near Everglades Boulevard and 34th Avenue Southeast, according to Carli Segelson, a spokeswoman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

A dive team and a helicopter are surveying the area to find the fourth person on board, Segelson said.

Check back to naplesnews.com as more details become available.


POSTED EARLIER:

Collier County deputies are working a serious crash and a boating incident following a Monday afternoon storm.

A trauma alert was issued for a person in a crash at Livingston and Pine Ridge roads that happened around 4 p.m. In a separate incident at Everglades Boulevard and 34th Avenue Southeast around the same time, a Sheriff's Office dive team has been sent to assist with boaters in distress, according to spokeswoman Krista Williamson.

No further details about the incidents could be immediately confirmed. Check back to naplesnews.com as more information becomes available.

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