A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office patrol boat intercepted an out-of-control, unmanned twin-engine fishing boat speeding across Tampa Bay on July 30. Body camera footage from that day shows Deputy Travis Fernandes pulling off a stunt straight out of Mission Impossible. While his partner runs alongside the runaway boat and speeds across the bay at full throttle, Fernandes leaps into the unmanned boat and saves the day.
The solo owner reportedly fell off his vessel while it was running at 41 mph. He was rescued from the water, but the boat continued racing dangerously across the bay without a single occupant on board to steer or throttle back.
Deputies Travis Fernandes and Jill Constant responded to the scene in a sheriff’s patrol boat. The video, filmed on Fernandes’ body camera, shows how the boat was speeding in a slight yet stable turn. Constant maneuvers her patrol boat close to the runaway, skillfully tracking the fishing boat’s speed with her patrol boat and closing the distance on it.
At first the patrol boat pitches in the runaway boat’s wake, and Fernandes can be heard telling Constant he’s not afraid to get wet as ocean spray blasts the two of them. Then Constant eases the patrol boat into the curve of the runaway boat’s turn and the two boats eventually come together. Fernandes takes his chance and leaps across the small gap into the fishing boat. He immediately throttles down the engines and gains control of the vessel.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office posted the video on their Facebook page, and appropriately dubbed Van Halen’s famed song “Jump” over the footage. They line up the lyrics perfectly so that Fernandes gets airborne right as Eddie Van Halen barks “JUMP!”
Other responders were involved in the incident, but PCSO headlined the day.
“The driver had fallen off and was rescued by a Good Samaritan,” the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office explained in their post. “The Coast Guard attempted to deploy prop-fowling devices to stop the vessel, but they were unsuccessful. Deputy Constant intercepted the runaway vessel by matching its speed (about 41 mph), allowing Fernandes to leap aboard and take control of the vessel…And yes Deputy Fernandes does his own stunts.”
The Sheriff’s Office also brought up the importance of using a kill switch lanyard when boating. This is now required by federal law, and it would have prevented the boat from running away in the first place.
“If you don’t want this to happen to you, always connect your kill switch lanyard.”