Note: the two men in this press release were not taking part in the two day sport lobster season. They were fishing.
Fiesta Key – A Merritt Island man has died in a Miami hospital after he ingested an unknown substance – possibly cocaine - from a brick he found floating offshore of the Middle Keys.
53 year old Thomas Swindal was offshore of Marathon Wednesday, trolling in about 200 feet of water on a boat with his brother, Kenneth Swindal. The brother told Detective Mark Maison they believed the package to be a kilo of cocaine. He said they discussed what to do with it, and then threw it into a bait well on the boat and kept fishing. He said he looked back at his brother a short time later and saw him opening the package and ingesting some of the substance that was inside.
He said about an hour and a half later, his brother began to act strangely. He began running around the boat, throwing things in the water including a cell phone and a VHF radio. He reportedly picked up knives, a pair of pliers, a gaff and at one point, removed the cowling from the engine which fell overboard and sank. He gaffed the engine, damaging it so it wouldn’t start.
The brother said he threw all the sharp objects off of the boat, and also threw the package overboard as well. The package was not recovered.
Because he had no means of communication left, and the boat wouldn’t start, the brother climbed up on the top of the boat and began signaling for help. A nearby vessel responded and called for help. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded and transported the two brothers in to shore where they were met by paramedics.
Thomas Swindal was taken to Fishermen’s Hospital and later transferred to South Miami Hospital where he died Thursday. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of his death.
The Sheriff’s Office asks that anyone finding any object they suspect to be contraband call for law enforcement assistance immediately. Do not touch the object or substance or bring it into your boat; if possible, keep it in view and wait for law enforcement to respond to take custody of it. It certainly is never safe to ingest any substance if you do not know what the substance is, or what the potency of the substance might be.