Charges pending in death of Palmetto man at Port Manatee

PALMETTO -- A 25-year-old Palmetto man died Saturday at Port Manatee after driving a vehicle into water, but his passenger was able to escape unharmed, authorities said.

The Florida Highway Patrol on Sunday said Adam Ryan Smith of Palmetto died while apparently having a medical emergency at the port at 1:23 p.m. Saturday while driving a 2011 Ford F-250 truck that went into the water.

But the report also indicates that unspecified charges in the death are pending.

Calls to the FHP to explain why charges are pending in the case of a medical emergency were not immediately returned.

The FHP report also does not indicate if Mr. Smith drowned or died before entering the water.

It is also not known if Mr. Smith was an employee at the highly secure port facility and, if not, in what capacity was he there.

Public access is restricted, and visitors at the port must pass through a security checkpoint.

Calls to Manatee County Port Authority spokeswoman Virginia Zimmermann regarding the death of Mr. Smith were not returned immediately Sunday.

According to an FHP report, Smith was traveling south in the parking lot of the Manatee County Port Authority on 300 Tampa Bay Way.

Then, apparently when he fell ill, Smith began to travel southwest in the parking lot toward the water, the report states.

The security guard at the port confirmed that Tampa Bay Way is on port grounds but said he could not say if the water Smith drove into was the Gulf of Mexico or another body of water, such as a pond.

The report also states that a passenger in the truck, Bebo Smith, 62, noticed the driver was having a medical event and tried to apply the brakes from the passenger seat but was unsuccessful. Bebo Smith's relation to the driver was not specified by the FHP.

The truck continued to travel southwest and entered the water, and Bebo Smith unsuccessfully attempted to remove the driver from the vehicle, the report states. Bebo Smith, however, was able to escape from the water, the report concludes.

On Sunday, many people sent condolences via Facebook to Palmetto's Bebo Smith and his son, Shane Smith, regarding Adam Smith.

"My brother, Adam, had to always be first in line," Shane Smith posted on his Facebook page. "This time he is at those gates made of pearls. Lucky you, Adam. Miss you like crazy already."

Hundreds of others sent their heartfelt thoughts on Adam Smith's death as well.

The Herald reached out to Bebo and Shane Smith via Facebook but they did not immediately reply.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.