Florida Pastor Drowns While Trying to Tow Boat to Shore After Being Rescued from Sinking Boat

Shawn Thomas, who was the pastor at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, died Friday, March 18, after a boating accident on Lake Seminole. [ Galilee Missionary Baptist Church ]

Joe Wright, 74, had known Shawn Thomas since he was a 7-year-old Bible school student at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, picking up and dropping off the boy and his peers as the church bus driver.

Last fall, the little boy who climbed onto his bus every weekday during summer vacation became Wright’s pastor at the same church.

On Friday, when Thomas asked for help, Wright didn’t hesitate.

Hours before, Seminole Fire Rescue responded to a disabled vessel taking on water with occupants onboard on Friday around 2:17 p.m. Deputies found Thomas, 39, and his friend Alexandra Dumervil, 37, in Lake Seminole at 10015 Park Boulevard and brought them both safely to shore, Pinellas sheriff’s deputies said in a media release.

Wright said he was watching the news when Thomas called to ask if he could help him tow his boat back to shore. “Yes, of course.”

After Wright took Thomas back onto the water with his boat, the pastor returned to his vessel, tying a rope between the boats. Wright then saw the other boat flip over and drag Thomas into the water.

“The current was too strong,” Wright said.

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SOURCE: Tampa Bay Times, Rose Wong