Tourist goes head first down slide, dies after hitting bottom of bay, Florida cops say

Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office Facebook video screengrab

A man vacationing in the Florida Panhandle died in a water slide mishap on Thanksgiving Eve, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

It happened around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at the west end of Choctawhatchee Bay, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

“In a tragic accident at Crab Island ... a Texas tourist died after going down a rental pontoon boat slide head first and striking his head on the bottom,” the sheriff’s office said.

“Family members say the 63-year-old victim went down into three to four feet of water ... but then didn’t resurface. They jumped in to try to save him and the Coast Guard, firefighters from Okaloosa Island and Destin, as well as EMS, all responded to the scene to assist in giving him aid.”

The man was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital in Destin, officials said.

He was identified as Donald Perry by station WEAR, which reports “he fell down the slide.”

Pontoon slides are often inflatable and allow boaters to slide directly into the water.

Crab Island, about 60 miles east of Pensacola, is a giant sandbar near the bay’s East Pass into the Gulf of Mexico. The surrounding water is shallow, which is part of the site’s appeal, experts say.

The island is a popular gathering spot for crowds, but is also considered dangerous due to heavy boat traffic, strong currents and sudden drop-offs, the sheriff’s office says. Multiple people die in the area each year.

At least three deaths have been reported in 2022, including a man swept away while making boat repairs, and another Texas tourist who was found dead after suffering a “traumatic injury” in the water, McClatchy News reports.

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