RUSKIN — Arthur D. Showley, 75, went fishing early Friday morning, something he did two or three times a week, friends said. When they saw his car and trailer still parked near a community boat ramp at 2 p.m., they thought that was strange.
"He never stays out this late," said Showley’s friend of 10 years, Rex Chumbley, 69. "I remember saying, ‘He must be catching a lot of fish.’?"
But Showley had died earlier in a boat collision in the Little Manatee River that injured two others, according to authorities.
The crash occurred about 8 a.m. near the mouth of the river and east of Shell Point Marina in Ruskin, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.
Showley was a grandfather and retired farmer from Kewanna, Ind., a town of about 600 people surrounded by miles of farmland in the north central part of the state. Chumbley called him a snowbird who spent six months of the year in the Tampa Bay area and the rest in Indiana.
The boats appeared to be in an area known as Devil’s Elbow when rescue crews got there, according to fishing guide Jason Thomas, who said he ferried paramedics and equipment to the spot.
"It was the worst accident I’ve seen on this river," Thomas said, describing the aftermath. "One boat looked like it was crushed like a tin can."
Thomas was describing a roughly 15-foot aluminum jon boat which appeared to suffer the most damage. The other vessel nearby was a 18- to 20-foot fiberglass bay boat, he said.
Tom Saxon, owner of the nearby Pirate’s Pointe Fishing Resort, was on the water making sure his fishing guests were okay after he heard the sound of helicopters in the air.
Saxon quickly was called into action.
"One of my captains came flying by me in the canal and said, ‘There’s an emergency, come on,’?" Saxon said. "We both took off and went to (a) trailer park to pick up first responders and equipment and transported them to the scene of the accident on the river."
When Saxon got to the collision site, he held one of the boats, enabling emergency crews to get to one of the victims.
"I held it so it didn’t float off," he said. "The first responders got out but there was nothing they could do."
Saxon said none of the guests at his resort were involved in the collision.
Contact Jonathan Capriel at [email protected] Follow @jonathancapriel.