Boaters warned of hazardous debris in the Tampa Bay channel

Pinellas County

Hazardous chunks of concrete have become a growing concern for boaters in the Tampa Bay channel, west of the Gandy Bridge.

Greg Camini and his girlfriend were seriously injured after his boat struck a piece of debris on July 4, 2016.

“We were coming back close to midnight from the fireworks and next thing you know, I woke up three days later in the hospital,” Caminiti told 8 On Your Side. “The eye doctor said I’m lucky not to be totally blind.”

Beachgoers have complained of dozens of concrete slabs in the water. 

Two years after his accident, Caminiti is wondering why the debris has not been marked or removed.

“If it was really high tide, we would have gone over it. And if it was really low tide, it would stick up out of the water, we could have seen them,” said Caminiti.

Caminiti’s friend, Dana Bowley, reached out to Hillsborough and Pinellas counties but said he was redirected to the state and decided to turn to 8 On Your Side. 

“There needs to be signage out here with reflectors,” said Bowley.

When 8 On Your Side contacted Pinellas County officials, they told us the debris is in a federal channel, which they’re not allowed to mark said the U.S. Coast Guard should take up the matter.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the debris is outside the federal channel and they encourage boaters to stay inside the areas they’ve marked as safe.

After his accident, Caminiti hired an attorney. He hopes to warn others about the dangers of boating in the channel.

“They said there’s something called sovereign immunity where you can’t sue the state. They said you can’t sue the state for underwater stuff.”

After our report aired Wednesday, the Coast Guard provided us with the following statement:

“We want boaters to know transiting outside of a channel is like driving your car on the shoulder of a highway, or trying to create a trail in the woods. You are taking risks for yourself, your passengers and your boat. In addition, mariners should verify and update charts and navigation systems, whether paper or electronic, before leaving the dock. NOAA charts are updated weekly with notice to mariner corrections. You can view, print and order charts at www.charts.noaa.gov/InteractiveCatalog/nrnc.shtml

The Coast Guard is responsible for marking safe channels within federal waterways. We work closely with the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal, state and local maritime authorities to keep waterways marked and navigable. We recommend boaters check local weather, tides, charts and notice to mariners before leaving the pier.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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