Watch CBS News

Cocaine Snack May Be To Blame For Keys Fisherman's Death

MARATHON (CBSMiami) - If you found a block of something floating in the water off the Florida Keys, chances are your first reaction would not be to start munching on it. Unfortunately, that's not the choice 53-year-old Thomas Swindal made, and it probably killed him, because there's a good chance the fatal snack was a block of cocaine.

Swindal, of Merritt Island, was fishing Wednesday with his brother Kenneth off Marathon in the Middle Keys. The brother told the Monroe County Sheriff's Office the two men were in about 200 feet of water when they spotted a wrapped brick of something floating near the boat.

The brothers snagged it, decided it was probably cocaine, and tossed it into the boat's live bait well. Kenneth Swindal told deputies they talked about what to do with their find, but went back to fishing without making a decision.

Apparently, Thomas Swindal made his own call, in retrospect a bad one. His brother said he looked back and saw Thomas open the brick and eat some of what was inside. That's when things got weird.

Kenneth said within a half hour, Thomas went nuts. He started tearing around the small boat, tossing things like a cellphone and a radio into the drink. Then, he attacked the engine with pliers and a knife, prying the cover off and letting it fall into the water. Grabbing a gaff, a big pole for snagging fish, he stabbed the engine with it, causing so much damage it wouldn't start.

Kenneth Swindal was left with a crazy man on the boat, no way to get to shore, and no way to call for help. He told Monroe detective Mark Maison he tossed every sharp object off the boat, and then climbed up top to yell for help. A nearby boater heard his hail, and called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commission, which rescued the two brothers from the boat and got Thomas Swindal to paramedics.

After a stop at a Keys hospital, he was taken about 100 miles north to South Miami Hospital, where he died Thursday. An autopsy was ordered to figure out what killed him.

Police aren't sure what Swindal may have eaten, because his brother tossed the suspected cocaine brick back into the water, where it floated away. The autopsy may provide some answers.

It may seem a bit odd, but deputies felt compelled to remind boaters not to eat things they find floating in the water, and said don't bring it into the boat. Instead, they said, boaters should call police and report something they may think is illegal, like a brick of cocaine, and let cops figure out what to do with it.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.