St. Pete yacht owner convicted of obstructing probe after deaths during charter

(MGN)
Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 3:38 PM EST
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TAMPA, Fla. (WWSB) - The owner of a St. Petersburg-based charter yacht company has been found guilty of trying to mislead the Coast Guard after an incident where a passenger and crew member died during a charter in 2017.

A federal jury found Patrick Dines, 74, guilty of endeavoring to obstruct a proceeding pending before the United States Coast Guard. Dines faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. His sentencing hearing has not yet been set.

Dines was the president of FYC Yachts, a yacht charter brokerage company. In 2016, Coast Guard investigators interviewed Dines about reports of the company overcrowding charters, in violation of safety laws. Dines assured the investigating officer that his company was in compliance.

But on March 14, 2017, prosecutors say an overcrowded FYC-chartered yacht, the Jaguar, set sail from Maximo Marina in St. Petersburg and anchored in Pass-a-Grille Channel to allow the passengers to go swimming.

There were strong currents in the channel that day. Two swimmers were unable to fight the current and could not make it back to the boat. While other passengers assisted one of the swimmers, the only crew member on board besides the captain jumped into the water to save the other passenger.

Both the crew member and the passenger were overcome by the current and swept out to sea. They were never found.

Upon the Jaguar’s return to the marina, Dines approached the remaining passengers and encouraged one of them to pretend to be a crew member in order to mislead Coast Guard investigators about the number of passengers onboard.

This request was consistent with past instructions Dines had given instructions to other charter boat captains to misidentify passengers as crew members during USCG boardings.

Dines also attempted to have the remaining passengers sign a charter contract in order to absolve himself of any responsibility for the incident. The passengers refused, noting that the contract had the wrong yacht name, time of voyage, and number of passengers.