Lobster miniseason closes with two deaths, multiple arrests and an increase in boat stops, officials say

Yutao Chen/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS
·2 min read

Two people died, several were arrested and hundreds of boats were stopped and inspected on and off the water in the Florida Keys over this year’s two-day lobster miniseason, officials said Friday.

The event kicked off early Wednesday. By the afternoon, two men had died.

Boyd Eastham Nelson, a 51-year-old man from Tampa, was snorkeling near Bluefish Channel north of Key West when he “became unresponsive” in the water about 12:30 p.m., the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon.

Boaters attempted CPR until the U.S. Coast Guard arrived and continued their life-saving efforts. The man was pronounced dead at the Lower Keys Medical Center, the Sheriff’s Office said.

About the same time, Gregg Leon Dietz, a 64-year-old man from Garland, Texas, collapsed while standing in a rental boat north of Mile Marker 3 on the Gulfside, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials took Dietz to the Coast Guard station in Key West, and he was then taken to Lower Keys Medical Center. There he was pronounced dead, deputies said.

Officials said they do not suspect foul play in either death.

The Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Friday that the miniseason was a typical one and that “most” were following the rules, though officials did see an increase in the number of boats that were stopped both on and off the water.

The Sheriff’s Office’s districts from Key Largo to Key West stopped a total of about 600 boats, some for safety and wildlife inspections, on Wednesday and Thursday. Authorities arrested four people and issued another 18 mandatory notices to appear in court, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Three of the arrests were for wildlife violations of having over the limit of six lobsters per person or for having undersized lobster or fish, and a fourth person is facing a charge of tampering with evidence, Adam Linhardt, a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, said Thursday.

The 18 notices to appear included one for having 17 more lobsters than the limit allowed, with 13 of them being undersized. Another case had nine more lobsters than allowed and 11 of them undersized, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

In Miami-Dade County, a diver was cut on the leg by a propeller in Biscayne Bay Wednesday, reported WSVN-Ch. 7.

During the opening day of the 2021 miniseason, one man died after he dove into the water at Sawyer Key early in the morning and passed out, and a 39-year-old man died after going into cardiac arrest while in the waters off Pompano Beach later that morning.

A third person suffered a serious leg injury from a boat propeller in the water off the Lower Keys.