PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A 25-year-old man lost an arm when he was struck by a boat's propeller while snorkeling in a group off Palm Beach on Thursday afternoon.
According to officials with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a 30-year-old man from Palm Beach was operating a 2008 36-foot Yellowfin vessel southbound in the ocean near the Breakers Hotel at 12:20 p.m.
Upon observing a dive flag and divers in the distance, FWC said Friday the vessel immediately throttled down
Carter Viss of Palm Beach was struck by the vessel while snorkeling, according to his mother, Leilla Viss, in a post on Caring Bridge, a page for family and friends to stay updated on his condition.
Viss was transported to St. Mary's Medical Center and is currently in critical condition. He lost his right arm, sustained a break to his left wrist, and has severe injuries to both his legs.
"On Thanksgiving Day Carter was out doing what he loved most; diving in the ocean near Palm Beach with a good friend.," Leilla Viss wrote. "As a Marine Biologist, who works for a Turtle Rescue Center, Carter has always valued ocean life and ocean safety. While he was out diving, he took every safety precaution possible and put his flag up to indicate where he was diving. Unfortunately, he was run over by a boat."
She took a flight overnight from Denver to be with her son.
Samantha Marulli of Palm Beach witnessed the accident from the beach and said several divers were in the water approximately 200 feet from the shore. She said the boat had children on board.
“A boat came along and went right over them. When they pulled him out of the water, he didn’t have an arm. The fireman used a paddle board to go out with a bag to get the arm,” Marulli said.
According to Marulli, FBI agents responded to the scene.
“The way it came in was pretty aggressive and to only be a hundred yards offshore usually boats don't come that close to shore,” Marulli says describing the boat.
Coast Guard Lt. Commander Jason Neiman said, “The Coast Guard received a report that a Good Samaritan had located a severed arm. A Coast Guard member transferred it to the boat crew and it was transferred to the shore.”
Marulli says the people on the boat did help to bring the injured man to shore to firefighters and another boater did recover the man’s arm.
“Everybody was hugging each other and crying it was a very catastrophic scene,” Marulli says.
Viss was a team member at Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach and worked at Atlantic Blue Aquariums in Lake Park
“The LMC family of staff, volunteers, and supporters send our thoughts to our wonderful and brave team member, Carter, and his family at this difficult time," LMC spokeswoman Amanda Moore said.
Palm Beach Fire Rescue, Palm Beach Police, the U.S. Coast Guard and FWC agents were at the scene of the accident.
The incident is still an active investigation by police and FWC.
In 2017, there were 172 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller with 31 resulting in deaths, according to the Coast Guard.