PORT CANAVERAL. Florida — A couple of Florida jet skiers on spring break 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 a cruise passenger and posted on YouTube.
More details were added to the pilot association's website on Sunday.
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 water craft 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 water craft to re-board the water craft. 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.
A video taken by a passenger onboard the ship shows just how close the vessel came to the sheriff's boat and the jet skiers. Frantic shouts of "Get in, get in!" can be heard on the video.
Brown, a 1982 graduate of the Maine Maritime Academy, has been a pilot at Port Canaveral since 2002.
Brown told FLORIDA TODAY on Sunday the close call was made more dicey because of a nearby dredge in the channel, and also a stiff breeze that was pushing the two women directly in front of the cruise ship's path.
"I was limited in how far I could I could maneuver out of the way," Brown said, adding it's the first time he's experienced a situation like the one Saturday.
"I've had some close calls with small pleasure boats," he said. "This was the first time with people in the water, almost right in front of you."
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.
The two women were identified as 19-year-old Skylar Penpasuglia and 20-year-old Allison Garrett, both of Princeton, West Virginia.
Sheriff Wayne Ivey said the two women could have been pulled under the ship causing potentially serious if not fatal injuries, if not for Brown and Primmer's actions. The Sheriff’s Office provides all law enforcement and seaport security services for Port Canaveral.
Said Ivey: “I couldn’t be prouder of the actions of Deputy Taner Primmer, a member of our SeaPort Security Marine Unit who placed his life in peril without hesitation to rescue the young girls, and the Harbor Master Pilot, who not only maintained communication with the deputy, but was able to safely veer the ship, providing Deputy Primmer the extras seconds needed.”