Charlotte County man arrested for leaving boat crash in February

Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
Robert Lamont Barnhart. Credit: Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

A Charlotte County man is behind bars for leaving a boat crash that killed another man four months ago.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrested Robert Lamont Barnhart, 75, Friday for leaving the scene of a boat crash that killed a man in February.

After an investigation, it was determined Barnhart was involved in a boat crash that happened on Jug Creek Shoal within Lee County jurisdiction near Charlotte Harbor.

Barnhart faces charges for Leaving The Scene Of An Accident Without Giving Aid (third-degree felony) and Violation Of Navigation Resulting In An Accident (second-degree misdemeanor).

According to the arrest report, the victim was traveling in his boat toward Bokeelia from Boca Grande Pass. Barnhart was traveling in his boat, “Rampage,” to Peace River from the Florida Keys. Both boaters were within Jug Creek Shoal when the victim’s boat hit “Rampage” port side (left-hand side).

The victim’s boat rolled hard to its port side due to the wake from “Rampage”, and the victim was ejected from his boat into the water and began waving for help, while “Rampage” kept moving on its course. About 14 minutes after the crash, good Samaritans on another boat saw the victim floating face down in the water. Passengers on the boat pulled him out of the water and onto their boat.

The good Samaritans dialed 911 and attempted to revive the victim with CPR. They took him to Four Winds Marina on Bokeelia, where he was pronounced dead by fire/EMS crews. the victim’s boat traveled in circles until it was stopped by responding FWC officers.

Barnhart never stopped, and he continued to his home along Peace River. At home, Barnhart saw the damage from the crash on his boat, and he called FWC to notify them he had been in a crash. Barnhart he told FWC he saw Niehaus fall out of his boat and watched him surface, beginning to wave for help.

“I assumed he was trying to jump my wake I thought, ‘You idiot, that is what you deserve for doing that,’” Barnhart said in a sworn statement. “And when he came up and waved, I thought, ‘Well that’s what you get. You get wet, and your boat took off without you.’”

After the months-long investigation, FWC officers met Barnhart at his home and arrested him. He was taken to Charlotte County jail.

Barnhart was released from Charlotte County jail, per his arrest page on the sheriff’s office website.

According to FWC, Barnhart will be transferred to Lee County Jail.

MORE: FWC investigating man’s death in Bokeelia boat incident

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