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Officials: Man dies in airboat crash on St. Johns River

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Updated: 10/13/2013 7:09 pm
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. -- The body of a Brevard County man was pulled from the water Sunday morning after his airboat crashed Saturday night, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife officials.

Officials said Ralph "Danny" Oliver died around 11 p.m. after his airboat crashed into a concrete pylon on the St. Johns River, according to officials. The incident happened several miles north of State Road 528.

"Very nice guy and you could tell he was loved, everybody knew Danny," fellow boater Ronnie Altman said.

Oliver, 61, launched his boat in Cocoa before sunset, friends said. He was night riding with a group of more than 30 boaters from the St. Johns River Airboat Association.

"We had hit our last stop north and were working our way back south," Cary Eide said.

When the group lost sight of Oliver after the crash, they alerted authorities who initiated a search for him.

Eide has been boating with Oliver for a long time, and he described the retired NASA employee as an expert boater who knew the water well.

"You have to be counteractive all the time for obstacles or unforeseen problems," Eide said.

Officials said they are still investigating how the accident happened, but family members speculate it could have been a mechanical malfunction with the boat. Oliver's body was found and pulled from the water around 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

Eide took WFTV's Anthony DiLorenzo on his airboat on the river Sunday afternoon and explained that accidents are always possible, but you never expect to lose a life.

"Accidents happen riding at night. The probability, it's not if it's going to happen, it's when it's going to happen," Eide said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife said the incident remains under investigation and an autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death.
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