A day on the water turned tragic Monday afternoon for two elderly Waycross fishermen, one of whom drowned when their boat capsized after the anchor line became entangled in the outboard engine’s propeller, authorities said.
Thomas Shaw Jr., 80, was pronounced dead at 1:34 p.m. at Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital, said Glynn County Coroner Marc Neu. Shaw was not wearing a life vest, said Sgt. Mark Carson, a law enforcement officer with the state Department of Natural Resources.
George Laison, 72, managed to put on a life vest just before the boat capsized, Carson said. He was pulled to safety by a member of the Unified Command, the multi-agency group that is tasked with removing the shipwrecked Golden Ray from the St. Simons Sound, Carson said.
Laison and Shaw were taken via ambulance from U.S. Coast Guard Station Brunswick to SGHS. Laison was treated for hypothermia, Carson said.
The two men were in a 17-foot boat with a center console and a 115 hp outboard engine, he said. They were between Bird and Quarantine islands. At approximately 1:30 p.m. Monday, the Coast Guard received a distress call for a capsized boat with two men in the water in the St. Simons Sound. A Coast Guard crew responded in the station’s 45-foot Response Boat.
Preliminary reports indicate that the boat’s anchor line somehow became caught up in the engine’s propeller, Carson said. Both men were at the back of the boat at once, trying to untangle the line, when the “motor kicked up too much pressure on the back of the boat,” Carson said. Laison managed to reach the bow of the boat where he put on a life preserver.
Pulled by the force of the anchor entangled on the motor prop, the boat capsized, Carson said. “The anchor apparently was dragging while they were trying to untangle it and it pulled the boat under somehow,” Carson said.
A nearby Unified Command boat heard calls for help and responded, he said. One man went into the water. He went first to Laison, who told him Shaw was underneath the boat and needed immediate attention. Both men were brought aboard the Unified Command vessel.
The man immediately began performing CPR on Shaw in the boat, Carson said.
Coast Guard and state DNR officials continue to investigate the fatal boating mishap.