Adam Linhardt –
A biologist collecting data in 55 feet of water near the Western Dry Rocks last month was jerked to the surface by a fishermen apparently angry that her dive flag was in his fishing spot, according to law enforcement officials.
That fisherman, 74-year-old Donald A. Bamford of Stock Island, was arrested Wednesday on a misdemeanor battery charge after a monthlong investigation by state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Alison Johnson, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Research Institute, was collecting data on the mutton snapper spawn on the seafloor just south of the Western Dry Rocks on May 9 when Bamford grabbed her dive flag and used the line to drag her topside in less than a minute, said State Attorney’s Office investigator Franklin Cohens.
Johnson told Bamford she needed to decompress, but witnesses said the fisherman began arguing with her about ruining his fishing spot, said Coast Guard Investigative Service Resident in Charge Paul Shultz.
Eventually, Johnson convinced Bamford to release the line so she could dive and decompress, but by that time she was suffering from a severe headache and made her way back to a FWC research boat, where fellow scientists treated her en route to shore, Cohens said. Johnson was taken to Lower Keys Medical Center, where she was treated and released.