Pinellas County, FL – Deputies chasing a driverless runaway boat were able to stop the speeding vessel after one of them managed to pull alongside the boat to allow a second deputy to jump aboard (video below).
The incident occurred approximately three-quarters of a mile off of Coquina Key and St. Pete Pier on July 30, WTVT reported.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) Marine and Environmental Lands Unit Deputy Jillian Constant and Deputy Travis Fernandes responded to the area after receiving a call from the U.S. Coast Guard requesting assistance with a “runaway vessel,” the PBSO said in a video post.
Investigators said the driver of the runaway boat had fallen off and was rescued by a good Samaritan, but that the vessel posed a serious risk to anyone and anything in its path.
“The Coast Guard attempted to deploy prop fowling devices to stop the vessel but they were unsuccessful,” the PCSO noted.
Bodycam footage showed Deputy Constant, 32, expertly maneuvering a second boat alongside the runaway vessel as it sped through the water at speeds of approximately 41 miles per hour.
After matching the boat’s speed, she was able to intercept the vessel in a curve, the PCSO said.
“The vessel was continuing in a circle-like fashion, and we made our way to the inside of the vessel, and we matched the speed of the vessel,” Deputy Fernandes later told WTVT.
Deputy Constant’s maneuvering allowed her partner to leap off of their boat and onto the deck of the unmanned boat, the video showed.
“If you were to try to do it the wrong way, which is approaching it from the outside of the vessel, a couple of terrible things could happen, which is, one, you don’t have a stable platform and now a gap could widen between the vessels and the person jumping could fall off in between and get crushed,” Deputy Constant later explained to WTVT.
“Or, you could push the vessel off course so you could push it further to the left or the right because you’re on the outside of the vessel,” she added. “So, you must always go on the inside of the vessel.”
Deputy Fernandes, 31, quickly brought the runaway boat to a stop, bodycam footage showed.
“And yes Deputy Fernandes does his own stunts,” the PCSO said.
Deputy Fernandes said he and his partner relied on their experience and training to end the situation safely.
“We drive boats 10 hours a day, four times a week,” he told WTVT. “We train for this stuff. We train for all sorts of incidents.”
The deputies further noted that the entire situation could have been avoided if the captain who fell overboard had been wearing a kill switch.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below:
When the operator of a boat was knocked overboard, the unmanned vessel sped out of control — that is until Pinellas County, FL Sheriff Deputies skillfully managed to board and stop the boat. A job well done! #CopsCountPoliceMatter pic.twitter.com/FFHzT3DN6L
— Bill Bratton (@CommissBratton) August 12, 2023