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Deputy’s Toe Severed In Airboat Collision
PBSO Airboat Collides With Airboat Providing Tours Of Everglades

POSTED: 10:34 am EDT March 17, 2011

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — A Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was injured when his airboat collided with another airboat providing tours of the Florida Everglades lost his toe in the accident.

Sgt. John Killingsworth was listed in fair condition at Delray Medical Center, a hospital official told WPBF 25 News on Thursday.

Killingsworth and Deputy William Elliot were injured in the crash Wednesday afternoon at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, about five miles off Loxahatchee Road near the Broward County line.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators said the airboats collided, knocking several people into the water.

Investigators said there were six people on the tour boat — the youngest a 12-year-old boy and his family from Jupiter. The airboat was registered to a Broward County company called Ride-The-Wind Everglades Airboat Adventures.

There were also four other people on the PBSO airboat — three other deputies and an intern from Germany.

PBSO spokeswoman Teri Barbera said Killingsworth injured his legs and had his toe severed.

Elliot was treated at the hospital for minor injuries and released Wednesday.

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Airboat Collision 01

Emergency officials investigate an airboat training accident that occurred Wednesday afternoon near Lox Road along the Palm Beach-Broward county line.

Two sheriff’s deputies injured in airboat accident

By Michael LaForgia and Alexandra Seltzer / Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 8:04 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Posted: 2:21 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Photos: Damon Higgins / Palm Beach Post

A rare airboat collision left two Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies hurt, one badly, and a tour boat wrecked Wednesday in a stretch of the Everglades in northern Broward County, authorities said.

The crash happened about 1:30 p.m. in a shallow, well-traveled section about four miles south of the Palm Beach County line. The sheriff’s airboat was carrying five deputies in the agency’s marine unit and an intern from Germany and heading north. The deputies were cruising the Everglades as part of a training exerise, said Teri Barbera, sheriff’s office spokeswoman.

The other boat, operated by Ride-the-Wind tours, was carrying six people – a family of four, including one 11- or 12-year-old child, from Jupiter; a passenger from South Carolina; and the boat operator, said Gabriella Ferraro, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The tour boat was heading south.

Airboat Collision 02

A sheriff's deputy talks on phone near a sheriff's airboat that was involved in a collision with a tour boat Wednesday afternoon.

One deputy was flown to Delray Medical Center with “serious” but not life-threatening injuries, Ferraro said. She declined to describe the injuries in detail. A second deputy suffered less serious injuries and was driven to the hospital in an ambulance.

One passenger on the tour boat was hurt but evaluated by paramedics and cleared to go home.

No names were made public Wednesday.

After the crash, the tour boat sank and the dozen people involved rode back to the entry of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge onboard the sheriff’s office craft. The boat’s starboard side was damaged, Ferraro said.

Airboat Collision 03

A sheriff's deputy photographs an airboat that was carrying sheriff's deputies Wednesday afternoon when it collided with a tour boat.

Ride-the-Wind Airboat tours was started in 2006 and based in Davie, record show. Its website lists Randy Meeker of Hollywood as the airboat operator. Wildlife investigators didn’t say Wednesday whether Meeker was at the helm of the tour boat when it crashed.

Lyle Thomas, who runs Loxahatchee Everglades Tours at 15490 Loxahatchee Rd., near the crash site, said Wednesday marked the first airboat collision he’s seen in 54 years of navigating the Everglades.

The wildlife commission was investigating the crash.