Ship Pilot Dies in Accident off Panama City

While boarding the Pipit Arrow, a 656-foot bulk carrier at the Panama City, FL sea buoy, 73-year old veteran ship pilot and former Coast Guardsman, Captain Frank Knowles, fell from the vessel’s jacob’s ladder and was unable to be immediately recovered in the early morning darkness.

pipit_arrow-300x138An emergency helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft from the US Coast Guard were immediately deployed, however two hours later his body was recovered by the Pipit Arrow’s fast rescue craft.

Captain Knowles’ daughter Amanda spoke to us this morning. “He would do anything for anybody. He was a very loving person, liked politics, especially Fox News, and was a hard worker. He would go out of his way to help anybody.”

Amanda also mentioned that this was his second fall from a ship, “but it was daylight the last time he fell, and was recovered quickly,” she added.

As a former cadet, Captain Brandon Waldrip remembers Captain Knowles as “a fantastic ship-handler, a good friend, and a huge Alabama fan.”

In a phone call with the Coast Guard, they wished to “extend their thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of the mariner who lost his life.”

Captain Knowles was a licensed harbor pilot of the St. Andrew Bay Pilots Association, which serves the Ports of Panama City and Port St. Joe, and also a harbor pilot for the Port of Pensacola. The following is a statement from the Florida Harbor Pilots Association:

“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.”

Captain Knowles was a 40-year veteran within the maritime industry and is survived by his wife, son, two daughters, and two granddaughters.