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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Names of victims released in fatal watercraft collision in Clearwater

Investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were busy Sunday trying to reconstruct a wreck on the Intracoastal Waterway on Saturday evening that claimed the lives of two tourists.

Ramana Godabiraju, 50, was killed when the personal watercraft he was operating struck a tour boat near the Clearwater Memorial Causeway, said commission spokesman Baryl Martin. Godabiraju’s passenger Shubhada Kulkami, 49, was also killed. Both are from Lower Gwynedd, Pa.

What caused the 6:10 p.m. collision remains under investigation, Martin said.

“We’re still collecting evidence,” he said.

The two victims had rented a personal watercraft and while they were on the water, struck the boat, operated by Tropics Boat Tours, Martin said. The tour boat had about 80 people on board at the time, Martin said.

Both victims were thrown into the water and later were recovered. They were taken to a nearby hospital where they were pronounced dead, he said.

No one aboard the tour boat was injured in the collision, he said. The boat did sustain damage, but the extent of that damage had not been determined, Martin said.

“It still was structurally sound,” he said. Investigators were examining the vessel this morning, he said.

Early Sunday morning, the tour boat company posted a message on its Facebook page addressing the accident, which read: “The Tropics Boat Tours extends our heart felt thoughts and prayers to all the family members, passengers and crew affected by the tragic accident that occurred yesterday. We have cancelled our cruises today and plan to assume regular operation on Monday.”

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