School mourns principal killed in Clearwater jet ski crash as 4-year-old fights for life

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Faculty members at Pepin Academy, a Hillsborough County charter school for students with learning disabilities, are getting grief counseling on Monday after a fatal boat crash in Clearwater that killed Pepin Executive Director Craig Butz on Saturday.

Butz’s four-year-old daughter Teagan is still hospitalized in intensive care due to her injuries in the Sea-Doo crash but is showing improvement.

“We know she’s a fighter and she’s going to work and do everything she can to stay with her family and we know she has great care at the hospital and great doctors around here,” said family spokeswoman Natalie King.

King tells 8 On Your Side that other boaters rescued the girl after the crash and probably saved her life.

“This area where the accident occurred is a very busy area. There was another jet skier there who was actually able to help extract our young baby and there were other boaters in the area so there was a pretty quick response,” King said.

King tells us family and friends are cautiously optimistic about Teagan’s recovery.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers are still investigating the collision of the jet ski and a 37-foot boat driven by 67-year-old Thomas Carey.

“I can tell you personally knowing him, he would not have made irresponsible decisions with his daughter in his own life,” King said.

Carey is a well-known personal injury lawyer in Clearwater who has been an outspoken advocate against drunk driving. He is also the former local president of MADD. Carey’s wife died in a drunk driving crash.

He has not yet responded to request for comment, but his law partner Jody Leisure tells 8 On Your Side he is devastated by what happened and insists there was nothing he could do because the Sea-Doo driven by Butz accelerated into the side of his boat.

The Sea-Doo, now impounded as evidence has prop scars from Carey’s boat running down the right side from bow to stern.

The crash happened near a beach home owned by Pepin as a recreational gathering place. Butz was supposed to be involved in a leadership retreat at the house last weekend but it was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. King said Butz was spending a relaxing weekend there with his family.

Neighbors say another unidentified woman who was riding on another Sea-Doo with Butz said the crash caught them by surprise.

“She just kept saying, ‘The boat came out of nowhere,'” said Wendy Greenwell

The Sea-Doo involved in the fatal crash belongs to Pepin.

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

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