Investigators search for boat involved in hit-and-run collision off Marquesas Keys

KEY WEST, Fla. – Brigid McClaire and Jim McLaughlin had big plans to go on a sailing adventure during their retirement. Everything changed when a vessel collided with Applesauce, the couple’s boat.

It happened at about 5:30 a.m., on Jan. 20, off the Marquesas Keys, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,

“I have a memory of the bow just near my head, crashing into the boat,” McLaughlin said.

They said they saw what appeared to be a bright light coming from the other boat before it struck theirs. McLaughlin was knocked to the floor.

“[Jim was] 100% unconscious — with his eyes open. I thought he was dead,” McClaire said.

Applesauce started taking on water as McClaire went to the cabin below deck to retrieve the air horn. The radio was damaged in the collision.

“By the time I came back, up there was no sign of the boat,” she said adding McLaughlin regained consciousness. “I got one of the life jackets on him.”

The dinghy, which had been ripped away in the collision, floated back toward the boat, so the couple got in. Without a working motor, McClaire said she started paddling before being rescued by a Good Samaritan in a boat nearby.

The U.S. Coast Guard responded and took the couple to Key West. McLaughlin was transported to an area hospital for further treatment. He said he suffered a concussion, lacerations, and an injury to his shoulder.

FWC is asking for anyone with information about the other vessel involved in this incident, possibly a 40 to 50-foot white commercial fishing vessel with a spotlight on the wheelhouse, to contact the FWC at 888-404-3922. Tips can be made anonymously.

About the Author:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.