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Man loses his arm, gains a renewed passion for marine biology and safety

He was struck by a 36-foot Yellowfin vessel
Posted at 7:18 PM, Nov 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 19:18:18-05

JUNO BEACH, Fla. — Thanksgiving Day takes on a whole new meaning for one South Florida man. Last year, 26-year-old Carter Viss was diving in the ocean near Palm Beach when he was struck by a boat. He lost his right arm, but he gained a renewed passion for marine biology and safety.

Around the holidays you’ll find lines of people ogling the aquariums at Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach. Behind the scenes, Viss, a maintenance technician testing the water that keeps fish alive and the aquariums running.

”You want your salinity to be at a certain level — it can severely affect any corals or fish we have in our aquariums,” Viss said.

His passion for marine biology is why he moved to Florida from Denver, Colorado seven years ago. He even spent Thanksgiving 2019 with a colleague diving.

“Thanksgiving Day was especially amazing condition-wise — 100-feet of visibility in the water. One of the best dives we’ve ever had,” Viss said.

But as he swam back to shore he was struck by a 36-foot Yellowfin vessel; he lost his right arm, sustained a break to his left wrist, and had severe injuries to both his legs.

“The pain really started to set in especially when I got into the ambulance,” Viss said.

Optimistically he calls the accident a life-changing recovery and since that day, Viss and his supporters have journaled it on Caring Bridge. A website for posting health updates. You can read more here.

”No matter who you are or what you do — you’re going to lose something at some point in your life,” he said. “And you can let whatever you’ve lost define you in a negative way. Or you can take whatever you lost and let it define you in a positive way.”

Over the last year, Viss has become a better pianist, a motivational speaker, an artist and there’s a laundry list of other goals and accomplishments.

“Opportunities are going to come up that you would have never imagined,” he said.

Viss is also fighting for more no-wake zones to protect divers along South Florida’s coasts.

”Any popular snorkeling area down here is both a treasure to divers and a treasure to marine life,” he said. “I believe that protecting them in a sense where boats can’t speed through them is a very substantial start in protecting the whole reef in general.”

Viss said a decade from now he hopes to still be working at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, just with a different job title as a lead aquarist.