Kayaker Catches Flesh-Eating Bacteria After Falling Into Florida Channel

Former Atlanta Hawks president Bob Williams has said a tumble into a Florida channel caused him to be infected with a flesh-eating bacteria.

The 68-year-old fell from a kayak into the Garrison Channel near the Tampa Convention Center in February.

He has said he was unable to climb back into the boat, nor was he able to haul himself onto nearby docks. Instead, he swam in search of an alternative way out of the water.

He eventually made his way out by climbing onto a floating dock, which he managed only with the assistance from others. However, in the process he cut his feet on barnacles and oysters.

It is through these wounds that he claims to have contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a severe and potentially deadly infection that can be caused by vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria found in saltwater, brackish water, and shellfish.

It rapidly destroys the tissue surrounding the infection, and can also lead to sepsis, shock, multiple organ failure, and even severe scarring.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of people who get infected with vibrio vulnificus die, sometimes within a day or two of falling ill, and many others require intensive care or limb amputations.

Williams has filed a lawsuit alleging that he fell into the water because the seat of the kayak that he had rented was faulty.

He adds that he flagged his concerns about the kayak seat to an employee at the rental company, and that the staff member "fiddled" with it before sending Williams out on the water, The Tampa Bay Times reports.

The seat then collapsed, the lawsuit alleges, and Williams fell overboard.

After climbing out of the water, he tried unsuccessfully to get a refund, before returning to his waterfront home nearby.

The started experiencing flu-like symptoms the following day, and was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he was diagnosed with septic shock.

He later underwent surgery to remove the bacteria from his feet, and alleges that he has suffered permanent injuries as a consequence of the incident.

In June 2019, a woman died after contracting necrotizing fasciitis through a small cut on her lower leg, which she sustained on the shore of Florida's Gulf Coast.

The following month, a 68-year-old man became seriously ill after contracting the infection while swimming in the waters off St. George Island, and had to undergo six surgeries in six days to save his life.

A 50-year-old man who got infected with necrotizing fasciitis in Florida later that year had to have 25 percent of his skin removed as part of his treatment.

A girl kayaking in a Florida river
Vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria found in saltwater, brackish water and shellfish, can cause necrotizing fasciitis, which is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection. edb3_16/iStock