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Memorial Day boat collision near Sunshine Skyway Channel injures several, stirs safety concerns

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is investigating a Memorial Day boat collision in the area of the Skyway Bridge channel. It's unclear if charges have been filed.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is investigating a two-vessel crash that happened on Memorial Day in the area of the Skyway Bridge channel.

Jeffery Newburg of Clearwater was driving one of the boats involved in the crash and tells 10 Tampa Bay the incident has stripped him of his peace of mind. 

"I saw a flash out of the side of my eye, and he came in and just hit us head-on into the rear port side of the boat," Newburg said. "The impact was pretty violent."

Newburg said a smaller boat suddenly drove into his 29-foot fishing vessel, sending people from the other boat flying. 

"I jumped up and I grabbed the throttle to stop the boat, and I saw a kid in the back of my boat that wasn't on my boat before," Newburg explained.

He said the other driver and another passenger in the other boat were also thrown overboard. Some of Newburg's nine passengers were treated for injuries and remain shaken physically and emotionally, he said.

"I was concerned, obviously, with my pregnant daughter being on the boat and my grandkids," Newburg explained. "It makes you think about what you love doing and it puts doubt in your mind."

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said an off-duty deputy was among the first to respond to the crash. It's now the agency leading the investigation. While the incident report is still sealed, they confirm several people were treated for minor injuries.

"The situation could have been much more dangerous if he was driving a larger boat," Newburg said. "It actually made me think to if I ever want to go on the water again, because it's not worth, you know, losing a life over it."

With his boat now seriously damaged, Newburg won't be behind the wheel any time soon but hopes others prioritize boating education this summer. 

"Everybody that's on the water should go take a Coast Guard safety course. Know the rules on the water, what to do, and what not to do," Newburg said. "Safety has to be paramount."

The incident is still under investigation. It's unclear whether any charges have been filed. 

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