HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A unique operation took place on the Alafia River on Wednesday.
Nearly two weeks ago, a sailboat on the river broke loose from its mooring. The mast hit a power line and the boat caught fire before sinking, according to a Hillsborough County spokesman.
Nobody was hurt, but it’s been making it difficult for other boats to get by.
Divers with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Tampa Police Department, as well as Hillsborough County Marine Safety removed the boat out of the water on Wednesday and towed it away.
Hillsborough County Solid Waste Services helped break boat down and recycle it properly.
The sailboat is 37 feet, making it the biggest boat the county has tried to remove without hiring a professional contracting company.
A county spokesman says the boat was operational before it caught fire and sank. Crews have been sporadically removing some derelict vessels from this area over the last year.
Since last June, divers have pulled two dozen boats out of the water at the Williams Boat Ramp in Riverview, which has saved the county more than $100,000 by not having to hire a professional contracting company.
Earl Brown with Hillsborough County Emergency Management says this was also a training opportunity.
So they can be ready to respond especially if someone’s life is in danger, if a car goes off a bridge or into a pond, this is an opportunity for them to train on how to float a car out of the water,” Brown said.
Barry Mills lived on boat, and was on the boat when it hit the power line.
“I heard somebody screaming, I look outside, see the bridge, I had jumped out to take control and the boat exploded,” Mills said.
Mills says he now has to start his life over.
“I’m glad I’m alive but that was my home,” Mills said. “All my tools, everything I own, all we had was on the boat.”
A GoFundMe has been started for Mills. You can find it here.