PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A couple of jet skiers, it seems, owe a debt of gratitude to a Port Canaveral harbor pilot and a Brevard County Sheriff Marine Unit deputy for averting a near-tragic situation late Saturday afternoon.
The harrowing incident was captured on video by cruise passenger, Anthony M., who posted a video of the incident on YouTube.
"We moved to the front of the ship after watching the sheriff boat start speeding up and then we saw a couple of jet skis," Anthony said. "Everyone next to me on the front of the ship was preparing to see the worst."
Jet skier Ashley Penpasuglia said she thought she has plenty of time.
“It was coming out of the port, but we had plenty of time,” Penpasuglia said. “Of course, our jet ski is faster than them. It rolled and they were having problems getting back up.”
In the beginning of the video, Ashley is seen in the distance helping rescue a third person from the overturned jet ski.
But, her sister-in-law, Skylar Penpasuglia and friend Allison Garrett, still waded in the path of the oncoming Carnival Magic Cruise.
The U.S. Coast Guard partners with local law enforcement agencies to help manage travel with large cruise ships, so similar incidents don’t happen.
"As soon as he gets out of the way, you can see our jet ski literally hitting the side of the cruise ship," said Marine Deputy Tanner Primmer.
Primmer said he couldn’t be more proud of the boat’s pilot, Capt. Doug Brown, who worked to steer the boat and women out of the way.
"Because of you, my sister-in-law and her friend are still here and I don’t know where we’d be today with him," Penpasuglia said.
According to the association's posting, Port Canaveral Harbor Pilot Capt. Doug Brown was navigating the 130,000-ton Carnival Cruise Line's Magic out of the port, close to the mouth, when he noticed a personal watercraft with two women on board within the navigation channel in the vicinity of the jetties.
Brown quickly alerted Brevard County Sheriff's Deputy Taner Primmer, who was operating the sheriff's marine unit patrol boat in support of the cruise ship departures. Primmer made his way toward the jet skiers when one of the boaters fell off the watercraft to re-board the watercraft. It had flipped and both boaters ended up in the water "in extremely close proximity to the bow of the ship now bearing down on their position."
Brown, working with the captain and bridge team of the Carnival Magic, maneuvered the vessel away from the boaters while Primmer pulled both boaters aboard his patrol vessel and out of harm’s way.
"Our ship was closing in fast and the girls that fell off couldn't get back on their jet ski, so thank god the sheriff came to save them at the last but the sheriff saved the day and even pulled his boat out of the way at the last minute!" Anthony said following the incident.
“They tried getting on three times, but it kept rolling over,” said Penpasuglia. “It was terrifying.”
Brown, a 1982 graduate of the Marine Maritime Academy, has been a pilot at Port Canaveral since 2002.
Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray, who watched the video, said the incident shows the professionalism of the people who work out of Port Canaveral — from the Canaveral Pilots Association, to the sheriff's marine patrol unit to the cruise ship personnel.
"If someone gets too close to one of these cruise ships when they're not supposed to, there's no way it's going to be safe," Murray said.
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