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Divers improve response time during weekend boat rescue

Posted at 7:03 PM, Oct 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-14 19:03:46-04

CHARLOTTE HARBOR, Fla. — Emergency crews responded to an overturned boat in Charlotte Harbor, east of Boca Grande Sunday morning.

Charlotte County Fire and EMS divers found Calogero “Charlie” Polizzi under the capsized boat. Battalion Chief Matthew McElroy said it’s hard to hear when a boater doesn’t make it.

“The victim was underwater for an unknown amount of time,” he said. “We do think about the family members and the injuries he may have encountered.”

Polizzi’s girlfriend Doreen Pannett said she was too shaken up for an interview, but said it’s hard to look out her window and see his truck, and empty boat trailer, knowing he’s not coming home again. His son Michael Polizzi said he died doing what he loved. He said he got on his boat just about every day.

Mike Downs was one of the divers assigned to Sunday’s rescue.

“Time is of the essence. We’re trying to be there as quick as possible while being as safe as possible,” he said. “We did the best we could do as quickly as we could.”

McElroy said the department added the dive team to their marine unit this summer.

“We look at what we can do to better our team,” he said.

Even though Sunday’s rescue was their first operation, they’re improving response time by using a rapid diver pack which takes less time to assemble, weighs less and allows them to communicate with boaters and other divers while underwater. With all these adjustments, he said it increases their chances of saving a life.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is still investigating exactly what caused this accident.