DESTIN — The body of a 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldier who was tossed from a boat Sunday afternoon in Choctawhatchee Bay was found Wednesday morning in the Gulf of Mexico near Jetty East Condominiums, officials said.
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Robinett's body was taken to the Medical Examiner's office, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Rebekah Nelson.
"Our hearts go out to the victim's family and friends during this difficult time," Nelson said in an email.
Robinett, 34, was ejected from a 20-foot center console vessel early Sunday afternoon after the boat took an unexplained "hard turn," according to Nelson.
According to preliminary information from an FWC accident report, Robinett was operating the boat at the time of the crash. The boat was heading east and made a "hard turn" to the right. Robinett and another man, 33-year-old Matthew Martinello, were thrown from the boat as it traveled in circles.
Martinello spoke with Robinett, who was unable to swim because of a back injury, the report said. Martinella could not assist Robinett back to shore, it added.
A news release from the Coast Guard said the boat struck Robinett while he was in the water.
However, Nelson could not confirm that the boat hit Robinett. She said the boat was running in circles until it was stopped by a tow company and taken to the Coast Guard station in Destin.
Martinello was taken to a hospital and released the next day. Nelson said it did not appear that Martinello had been struck by the boat.
The accident investigation is ongoing.
The men were not wearing life jackets. Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the incident, Nelson said.
Sunday's accident was the first boating death in 2019 in Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties, Nelson said.
According to a Facebook statement from Col. Patrick Colloton, commander of the 7th Group, Robinett was a husband and father of three.
"It was an honor having him serve within the ranks of 7th SFG(A)," the statement said. "He was a part of our family, and will not be forgotten."