PAFB Helicopter Assists Rescue In St. John's River Airboat Crash

WEST MELBOURNE, Fla. — Four people were injured, one seriously, after their airboat overturned in the St. John’s River after striking a tree.   Brevard County Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to an area west of Interstate 95 near the Sweetwater Boat Ramp at 7:12 p.m. located just west of West Melbourne after dispatchers received a 911 call from one of the boaters.

According to the caller, all four were on an airboat when it struck a tree and overturned.  The most seriously injured patient, a male in his mid-50s, was reportedly thrown from the boat and was being tended to by two of his companions.  

After uprighting the boat, one of the victims attempted to make his way back to the boat ramp to bring paramedics to the scene – but the airboat quickly began taking on water and became stranded.

Helicopters were requested to assist in locating and transporting the patients to the hospital but none were immediately available due to inclement weather.  Airboats from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Brevard County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO), and Camp Holley Fish Camp responded to the scene and assisted in transporting paramedics to the crash site.

Upon reaching the site, paramedics quickly triaged the patients and were preparing to transport them back to the boat ramp via airboat when they received word that a helicopter from Patrick Air Force Base (PAFB) would be able to assist and was en route to the scene. 

A total of four patients were evaluated.  Three of the four patients, including the most seriously injured victim, were treated by paramedics at the crash site and flown via the PAFB helicopter directly to Holmes Regional Medical Center (HRMC) in Melbourne.  The fourth patient was brought back to the boat ramp via airboat.  That patient was then transported by ground to HRMC for evaluation.

FWC will be the lead agency investigating the accident and will be able to provide updates as they become available.