Deputies: Florida boater passed out at helm, headed toward beach, swimmers

MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. — A Florida man accused of operating his fishing boat while impaired was allegedly passed out behind the wheel as his vessel hurtled toward swimmers on a Gulf beach, authorities said.

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John Harvey Stead, 63, of Gibstonton, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with one count of boating under the influence, according to Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office online booking records.

According to the sheriff’s office, a department helicopter located the boat, which was “making its way toward a public swimming beach,” spokesperson Sgt. Amanda Sinni said in a post on the agency’s Facebook page.

“How much have you had to drink?” a deputy asks Stead, according to dash camera video.

“We don’t have no alcohol,” Stead tells the deputy.

“I’m looking at an empty beer can,” the deputy tells the Hillsborough County resident, who entered the Gulf via the Alafia River and Tampa Bay earlier in the day.

Stead was taken to the shore, where he performed poorly on field sobriety tests and was arrested, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“Boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol is extremely dangerous, and the Coast Guard always recommends that you, one, always have a designated driver, and two, just don’t do it,” Petty Officer Nicole Groll, of the U.S. Coast Guard, told WTVT.

Stead was released on his own recognizance later Tuesday, online booking records show.

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