Cape man drowns in Florida

Monday, November 26, 2001

NAVARRE BEACH, Fla. -- A Cape Girardeau man visiting his daughter for Thanksgiving weekend drowned after he was pulled out by a riptide in the Gulf of Mexico, the second drowning in as many days on area beaches.

Leo Steger, 61, and his daughter, Sherri Palermo of Navarre Beach were caught in the riptide Saturday, less than 50 yards from shore. A beachgoer, Lee Wagner, ran into the surf with two bodyboards and swam toward Steger.

Palermo, swept more than 60 yards away from her father, already was being helped by others.

Wagner grabbed Steger and slid a board beneath him. But Steger was unconscious, and the board slipped away. Onlookers formed a human chain to pull them ashore.

Steger was pulled from the water and airlifted to Gulf Breeze Hospital, where he died. Palermo, 36, was treated and released.

Steger's obituary appears on page 7B in today's Southeast Missourian.

The incident follows a summer in which eight people died along area beaches and less than a day after Robert Linton, 42, died after being brought to shore by two men.

Navarre Beach executive director Roger Blaylock said unusual warmth and ferocious surf are to blame.

"Generally, the water temperature is too cool for swimming," he said. "It's an anomaly that we've had such a warm fall to date. It's a fluke."

The National Weather Service reported weekend temperatures are more than 10 degrees above normal, hitting a high of 79 about 11 a.m. Saturday, shortly after Steger and Palermo were caught in the riptide.

Navarre Beach is about 20 miles east of Pensacola in Florida's Panhandle.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: