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Pilot ID'ed in airboat crash as others warn of low water, debris on Peace River

Other pilots said the debris is from Hurricane Ian, which struck the area more than 18 months ago.
Posted at 6:34 PM, May 27, 2024

ARCADIA, Fla. — Late Monday, state wildlife agents identified the airboat pilot killed in a crash on the Peace River in DeSoto County as Michael Flint.

"He was he was a legend all within himself," said Roberta Moore, a friend of Flint for more than 30 years. "He was a joy and he was always the life of the party.”

One other person on the airboat was hurt. There were two passengers total, along with Flint, on board, said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"You hear the motors you hear the boats. You hear the water but no metal contact, so I mean if the boat was crunching in the trees, it's really sad," Airboat driver Captain Harris told FOX 4's Ella Rhoades on Monday.

He said he was on the river Saturday and heard a terrible noise. When Harris got back to Nocatee Boat Ramp just south of Arcadia, state wildlife agents told him the sound came from the boat crash.

Nocatee Boat Ramp DeSoto County near Arcadia Nocatee Peace River
A look at the Nocatee boat ramp along the Peace River, near Arcadia in DeSoto County.

State wildlife agents say Flint's airboat hit a branch hanging over the water, but it's not clear if that caused the crash.

According to state data, there were 21 airboat crashes in Florida last year with one death.

Captain Harris said airboats are different from regular boats. Drivers don't have a lot of control.

"It does not have a brake. It does not have reverse.When you're going forward, you committed. If the engine stops, you have no steering."

Airboat Peace River Arcadia Nocatee boat ramp DeSoto County
Derek Hamm climbs aboard his airboat on the Peace River at the Nocatee boat ramp in DeSoto County. He reported the water in the area was low, and there was still a lot of debris left over from Hurricane Ian.

Derek Hamm has been driving airboats on Peace River for 30 years.

He said the water's lower than normal, and you still need to watch out for debris from Hurricane Ian.

"In a place like this, where it's the Peace River, hug the right side like you do on a two lane road," Hamm said.

They both recommend looking out for tight turns, looking ahead and for orange flags which stand out at the top of airboats.