Man charged in deadly Portsmouth canoe accident

(Photo: Susan Campbell/WPRI 12)

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — One of two men rescued from the water after their boat capsized off the shore of Portsmouth Thursday afternoon has died. The other, according to the Department of Environmental Management, is accused of drunk boating.

According Portsmouth Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael P. O’Brien, a 911 call came in from Seaconnet Boulevard in Island Park at 2:11 p.m. The caller reported hearing someone screaming for help from the water.

DEM spokeswoman Gail Mastrati said Michael A. Yazel, 65, and Philip L. Clement, 48, both of Portsmouth, were in a small canoe on the Sakonnet River  when their boat capsized about 100 feet from shore.

Mastrati said as the men struggled to get to life jackets, Yazel became unresponsive.

Bystanders, including an off-duty member of the U.S. Coast Guard, heard the screaming and jumped into action. O’Brien said they grabbed personal floatation devices (PFDs) and swam out to the two men in the water.

Mastrati said the bystanders and Clement then pulled Yazel to shore and began CPR.

Once on scene, O’Brien said firefighters continue resuscitation efforts and rushed the patient to St. Anne’s Hospital. However, Portsmouth Police Department confirmed the victim, a 65-year-old man, died.

Mastrati said Clement was charged with operating to endanger, death resulting; operating a watercraft intoxicated; and refusal to submit to a chemical test for intoxication.

She said while the reconstruction and investigation continues, alcohol was a factor in the incident.

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