HILTON HEAD

Ohio man injured Friday in Hilton Head watercraft crash

astice@islandpacket.comJuly 16, 2012 

A 44-year-old Ohio man remains hospitalized after he was injured Friday when the rented personal watercraft he was riding ran into another craft in Calibogue Sound.

A guide with Palmetto Bay Watersports was trying to gather a group of people who had rented crafts into a circle for a safety talk on the water at about 6:30 p.m. when the watercraft operated by James Cegelski of Parma, Ohio, suddenly accelerated, according to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office report.

Cegelski's craft clipped the guide's, tossing both men into the water.

When the guide surfaced, he saw Cegelski floating face down, according to the report. The guide grabbed Cegelski, who had been knocked unconscious, and swam him to shore at Brams Point Road in Spanish Wells, where the Town of Hilton Fire & Rescue Division awaited, said Sgt. Michael Paul Thomas of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

Cegelski was taken to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, where he is listed in good condition, hospital spokesman Michael Notrica said.

Thomas said Cegelski was scheduled to have surgery Monday to repair a fracture in his neck. Notrica could not provide further details about Cegelski's treatment.

Employees with Palmetto Bay Watersports give two safety talks during the guided watercraft tours -- one on the dock before the rentals launch and another while on the water, Thomas said. The crash occurred during the second talk.

Tim Trigg, owner of Palmetto Bay Watersports, said he was proud of his guide, who he said has extensive first-aid training, for how he handled the incident. Two guides led the tour Cegelski was on, Trigg said.

"(The guide) took care of the situation in a professional manner, and I believe saved this man's life," Trigg said. "We talk about safety all the time, and our guides were doing exactly what they've been trained to do."

Trigg said the watercraft Cegelski was operating has been inspected, and no problems were found with it.

The DNR's crash investigation is expected to be finished within a week, Thomas said.

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