‘It was so quick’: Man, woman swim safely to shore after boat capsizes off Vilano Beach

A man and woman were able to swim safely to shore Wednesday when the boat they were using to catch shrimp capsized three-quarters of a mile off Vilano Beach.

VILANO BEACH, Fla. – A man and woman were able to swim safely to shore Wednesday when the boat they were using to catch shrimp capsized three-quarters of a mile off Vilano Beach.

The Coast Guard confirmed that a commercial vessel sank in the St. Augustine area, and News4JAX spoke with the two shrimpers who were on board.

We found them at a bait shop, where they said they were doing OK after swimming about three-quarters of a mile to safety Wednesday morning.

They were on a 23-foot commercial boat they use for shrimping when it sank almost a mile north of the St. Augustine Inlet.

They said they have no idea how it happened. Conditions weren’t rough. The boat just tipped over.

“It was so quick, within a blink of an eye,” Leroy Kinlaw said. “The boat just, the door was on the boat and we just made the first drag, and the boat just rolled over, having no clue. It’s never happened before the way that it happened.”

Kinlaw said while netting shrimp, he noticed the back of the boat was lower than usual.

“It was a split second and the boat just rolled right over,” Kinlaw said.

His partner, Robin Anderson, was in the pilothouse when the boat capsized.

“As soon as I seen what was happening, I told her, ‘Jump to get away from the boat!’ Because you don’t want to get trapped under it,” Kinlaw said.

Sky4 aerials showed the sunken vessel’s bow peeking below the surface of what Kinlaw said was 32 feet of water. It was next to a blue floatation device with another vessel circling it.

A man and woman said they were on a 23-foot commercial crab boat they use for shrimping, and it sank less than a mile north of the St. Augustine Inlet.

They said it happened so quickly that there was no time to grab the lifejackets on board.

“He gave me his leg and pulled me out with his leg,” Anderson said.

Kinlaw showed us a bag and said that was what saved Anderson’s life.

“I had turned it upside down and let air get in it and zipped it back up so she could float with it,” Kinlaw said.

“I would rest one arm on it, paddle with another, switch it, rest one arm, paddle with the other, to get me through,” Anderson recounted.

The two managed to make it the three quarters of a mile back to the beach.

“We must be in good shape. We’re here,” Kinlaw said.

Kinlaw said their main job is crabbing on another boat and next time he hits the seas he’s going to be wearing a lifejacket.

The Coast Guard and several other agencies, including the FWC, responded because a sunken vessel like this can cause a navigation hazard.

Later in the day, the vessel was refloated from Vilano Beach and was being towed by a larger boat through Salt Run in St. Augustine toward a boat ramp when it capsized again.

The owners and some of their friends got a line on the boat and attached it to a big pickup truck on the beach, but the boat got grounded in shallow water, and the line snapped.

The daughter of the boat’s owner said Wednesday night the boat had been brought out of the water.

Photo from family member.

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I-TEAM and general assignment reporter