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14-year-old girl in critical condition after leg caught in boat propeller off Juno Beach

Palm Beach Post Staff Report

Updated: 10:13 a.m. Monday, Feb. 7, 2011

Posted: 7:49 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011

An unidentified 14-year-old girl whose leg was caught in a boat propeller south of the Juno Beach Pier on Saturday still is in the hospital.

She had surgery Saturday night at St. Mary's Medical Center and was listed in critical, but stable, condition.

The girl is expected to be in the same condition today, sheriff's office spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.

Hospital officials would not comment on her condition.

The girl and her friends were in shallow water about 2:30 p.m. when a boat carrying other friends approached them, Barbera said. Although she wouldn't identify the girl, by late Saturday her friends were sending her Facebook messages. They said she was a student at Palm Beach Gardens High School.

Tim Lyons, who was at the beach, said the accident occurred when the girl and her friends ran out to meet the boat.

Standing in about 3 feet of water, the girls tried to get into the boat but backed off when a wave carried it toward the beach. The girls were standing near the boat when a bigger wave threatened to ground it, the Palm Beach Gardens man said.

In an apparent attempt to keep the boat from getting beached, the driver revved the engine, Lyons said. The boat hit three of the girls, knocking them down. Somehow, the propeller struck the leg of one of the girls.

Lyons described the mayhem after the girl was struck. He said the girl and her friends were screaming as they dragged her out of the surf. Lifeguards tried to staunch the bleeding by holding towels tightly to her leg.

"She was screaming and then she was quiet," he said. She lost a lot of blood, he said.

The boat, a 22-foot white Cobia with several young people aboard, sped away after the accident.

The boat was later located at the Crab House in Jupiter and was impounded by the sheriff's office. Two people believed to have been onboard were being questioned Saturday night, Barbera said.

The investigation is ongoing, she said today.

Before the accident, lifeguards repeatedly warned the boater to get out of the swimming area. Despite the warnings, the boat continued to approach the beach.

Well-wishers on Facebook pledged to wear black to school on Monday to show their support for the girl. At least one said she preferred to wear pink, described as the girl's favorite color. "Stay strong, we're all thinking about you," one wrote.

Thanks Palm Beach Post for Sharing