Moving video testimonials encourage boaters to wear life jackets

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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May 26, 2017 


Videos available. Go to:


Tony Spivey’s Testimonial:

PJ Wheetly’s Testimonial:

Larry “Doc” Cox’s Testimonial:

Suggested Tweet: Testimonials released by @MyFWC encourage #boaters to wear life jackets. #wearitflorida


Moving video testimonials encourage boaters to wear life jackets


For National Safe Boating Week, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is releasing compelling life jacket testimonials from three north Florida families whose lives have been changed by wearing – or not wearing – a life jacket when things went wrong on the water. These dramatic accounts provide vital information and a call to action for every boater to enjoy Florida’s beautiful waters safely while wearing a life jacket. In conjunction with the release of the 2016 Boating Accident Statistical Report, these videos present strong arguments for boating safety and life jacket use.


The three testimonials recount events that happened to Tony Spivey and his son, Honor; PJ Wheetly, whose beloved stepfather tragically died while boating without wearing a life jacket; and Larry “Doc” Cox, whose life was saved by the life jacket he purchased that same morning.


“The stories of these families really bring home the message that it doesn’t matter who you are, you should always wear a life jacket while enjoying Florida’s waterways,” said Capt. Tom Shipp of FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “The videos are dramatic accounts given by the people themselves, and are reminders of just how important it is to make sure we all come home after a great day on the water.”


Tony and Honor were on their way back to a boat ramp after participating in a fishing tournament in the Gulf of Mexico off St. Marks, when their boat took an unexpected sharp turn, and father and son ended up in the water. Honor was able to swim to a buoy, but an exhausted Tony feared his son would watch him drown. If not for FWC officers arriving at the right moment, their story might be different.


“I look back and there’s just so many things that could have happened differently. And it all could have been avoided by simply having a life jacket on,” Spivey said in the video.


PJ Wheetly’s stepdad, Curtis, was a lifelong boater and angler. One Sunday morning, he set out for a quick trip on the Apalachicola River, and fell overboard and drowned.


“He didn’t put his life jacket on that day, for some reason, I don’t know why,” said Wheetly. “He was the best dad. We always thought he was the invincible man. It can happen to anybody. You just don’t know how important it is until you lose somebody.”


On a brisk spring day in March, Larry “Doc” Cox, who had spent a considerable amount of time on the water throughout his life, was anxious to go fishing after a recently broken leg had, for some time, prevented him. He went out on the Shoal River, but not before stopping at a local store to pick up a life jacket, which he had forgotten to pack on the boat that morning. At a bend in the river, he noticed his boat taking on water, and before he knew it, he was in the water, holding on to a log in the river. He had his life jacket on, however, which saved his life.


“It’s with the fate of my God and that life vest. I had no idea that life vest was going to save my life, and it did,” said Cox.


The FWC encourages boaters to find a comfortable life jacket and always wear it while boating. According to the recently released FWC 2016 Boating Accident Statistical Report, 60 percent of the boating deaths were due to drowning. Events can cause a boater to end up in the water unexpectedly, and a person will not have time to grab their life jacket before they find themselves in the water.


The testimonial videos can be viewed on FWC’s YouTube channel, or downloaded in high-resolution on Vimeo.


For a copy of the 2016 Boating Accident Statistical Report, visit and select “Safety & Education” and “Boating Accidents.” More information can be found by visiting You can even search there for the Florida Public Boat Ramp Finder to help you find a great place to launch your boat.

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