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Bradenton man, 66, found dead in the Manatee River

PALMETTO — Elicia Deck and her co-workers knew something was wrong.

“We saw him out there in his boat,” said Deck, who works at the Regatta Pointe Marina, “Then he wasn’t.”

The body of a man who may have drowned was recovered Friday from the Manatee River, according to the Palmetto Police Department, who turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission law enforcement division.

Gary Morse, spokesman for the commission, said the man was Jerry Key, 66, of the 1600 block of 58th Avenue Drive West, Bradenton.

At about 11 a.m. Friday, Deck and two of her coworkers at the marina saw the small dinghy sailboat about 600 feet off the dock and thought it was strange that they could not see the boater anymore.

“We looked through binoculars and couldn’t see him in the boat,” Deck said.

They called the Palmetto Police Department and the two men took a marina boat out to see if the victim needed help.

A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office marine unit was dispatched and when they reached boat, they found the man entangled in the lines of the boat, Morse said.

The sheriff’s deputies brought Key back to the marina where Manatee County Emergency Medical Services paramedics were waiting, but there was nothing they could do to revive him.

As the deputies and Palmetto police officers investigated, several people walked to the end of the dock to see what was happening, only to discover the body was still on the sheriff’s office boat waiting for the medical examiner and the Fish and Wildlife investigators.

Key was not wearing a life jacket, Morse said.

“We’re not sure of the cause of death,” he said, “because he had a number of medical conditions that could have contributed to his death.”

The death is being called an accident until the Medical Examiner’s Office does an autopsy, he said.