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Florida man drowns 20 feet from boat

Authorities are trying to determine if a diabetic condition contributed to the accidental death

Authorities are trying to determine if a diabetic condition contributed to the accidental death

A Miami sailor drowned in December after he fell off his 26-foot Coronado on the St. Johns River near Jacksonville.

Cesar Montano, 27, was walking to the bow to retrieve a gas can when he either slipped or tripped and plunged into the 64-degree water, says Lt. George Pottorf of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “The boat’s 25-hp kicker had stalled and he was going to get more fuel,” says Pottorf.

The sailor’s wife, 22-year-old Jennifer Montano, dropped the anchor and jumped in the couple’s dinghy, which was in tow. But she could not get the dinghy engine to start.

Montano was not wearing a life jacket. “The boat had the required number of life jackets and the required Type IV throwable,” says Pottorf. “It didn’t occur to her that she could have thrown that Type IV to him.”

After falling from the 1972 Coronado, Montano began yelling to his wife that his legs were cramping. The man was wearing shorts, a long-sleeve shirt and “combat type” boots, says Pottorf. The boots might have made it more difficult for him to tread water, he said.

Montano was a diabetic and had not been taking his medicine on a regular basis, says Pottorf. “We’re not sure if his diabetes was a factor or not.”

Montano, who was an experienced sailor and diver, went under only a few minutes after he fell into the water, and the boat was only about 20 feet away.

The Montanos were on vacation, wrapping up a 12-day cruise. From Miami they motored north up the Intracoastal Waterway to Jacksonville and then headed south on the St. Johns River to visit Jennifer Montano’s father, who keeps his boat at Acosta Creek Harbor in Satsuma, on the east bank of the river. The Montanos were also going to keep their boat there.

The FWC along with local authorities, friends and family members searched for Montano for six days. His body was found floating in the Palmo Cove, just two miles from where he went overboard. The cause of death was drowning, according to autopsy results.

The accident occurred just south of the ShandsBridge.