A dozen would-be lionfish cullers were sent to the Blacktip Island medical clinic Wednesday after a spear-use class in a resort pool went awry, officials said.
“We’re trying to get as many cullers trained up as possible, and the practical portion of the course was in the Sandy Bottoms resort pool,” Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “Everything was fine ‘til Joey Pompano shot Jack Wrasse in the butt cheek. Joey said the spear slipped, but nobody believes that for a second.
“Problem was, Jack turned around and shot back,” Schrader said. “He missed and hit B.C. Flote. Then all hell broke loose, with everybody shooting at each other. Next thing we knew, there was blood everywhere and people screaming. And yes, alcohol was involved.”
Island medical authorities say the wounds varied in severity.
“There’s some nasty puncture wounds, as you’d expect, but there’s also some pretty severe gashes where spear points grazed a body part,” island nurse Marissa Graysby said. “I treated 12 divers that afternoon, from everything from punctured hands to bleeding thighs. I’m about out of antibiotics.
“Luckily they were all flesh wounds,” Graysby said. “And no one was in danger of bleeding out. Though there’s a couple I wouldn’t mind if they had. Good thing those spear tines are short and the slings don’t have any more force than they do.”
Authorities say criminal charges are pending for multiple participants.
“As soon as they’re able to leave the clinic, I’ll be arresting at least five of the spearers involved,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “I’m still interviewing witnesses and participants to determine who did what to who. All involved have lost their right to spear until the cases are resolved.”
Pompano continued to claim innocence.
“It was an honest-to-God mistake,” he said. “I was testing the stretch of the rubber tubing and it slipped. I said I was sorry. Jack just overreacted.”
Other disputed that account.
“I seen Joey take aim, plain as day,” Rocky Shore said. “Had a goofy grin as he did it, too. No way that was an accident. He’s had a grudge against Jack ever since Jack stole Palometa Fischer away from him.
“The whole thing was beautiful to watch. From the pool deck,” Shore said. “The blood in the water swirled around as people thrashed. It was like a red-and-blue lava lamp.”
Schrader said she hopes the legal issues are resolved quickly. “The upside to all this is the trainees all showed really good aim,” she said. “Except for Jack, of course. This shows our training’s working. They’re gonna be hell on the lionfish, once folks get their spear privileges back. I’m gonna get on Rafe about that. We need those spears and spearers on the reef, pronto.”