U.S. Coast Guard officials are investigating the death of a local harbor pilot.
Around 2:30 Thursday morning, about 3 miles off shore south of Port Panama City, authorities say harbor pilot Frank Knowles had taken a smaller boat out into the Gulf to guide a ship into a port.
Knowles apparently fell of a rope ladder while trying to climb on board the larger vessel.
The Coast Guard arrived about 30 minutes after receiving the distress call. They found Knowles near one of the channel marker buoys.
Coast Guard crew performed CPR on him, but could not revive him.
"Normally we wouldn't find someone that far off, or get reports of a person that far off-shore," said US Coast Guard BM1 Timothy Myers, "but with the information we were given, with the person, the job he had, it's was not a big, it was not abnormal."
The Coast Guard is still collecting information and evidence, but at this point Knowles' death appears to be accidental.
The Florida Harbor Pilots Association Friday released the a statement attributed to Captain Stuart Lilly, president of the FHPA saying, “We are deeply saddened today at the loss of one of our fellow harbor pilots and a dear friend. Captain Frank Knowles has been a dedicated and brave harbor pilot since he was licensed in 1976. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Gail, and his family. Words cannot express the grief and sadness that every harbor pilot across the state feels today at this tragic loss. According to state and federal protocol, every accident is thoroughly investigated. Further details will necessarily have to await the outcome of that investigation.”