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Columbia County Observer

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Two Parks and Recreation Employees Rescued From Cnty Pickup Truck in Rising Flood Waters

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COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Earlier in the week it came to light that during the rain weather event on December 14, 2018, two Parks and Recreation workers got stranded in rising waters by the Cone Street boat ramp in North Columbia County. The Sheriff's Office Dive/Rescue team was called in to rescue the two hapless employees who took to standing on the tool box in the bed of their truck while watching rising waters and waiting for the rescue team to arrive.

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office incident report prepared by Lieutenant Don Meyer stated the following:

"On 12/14/2018 I was notified that there were two members of the road department that had driven into rising waters and were trapped on the top of their truck. CCSO personnel with boats responded for assistance.

Units responded to the area of Cone Bridge Road in reference to a Parks and Recreation Truck that had driven into rising water and got stuck. The two occupants were trapped on the vehicle and unable to get to safety. Units of the Dive/Marine Team with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office responded with boats and were able to easily rescue the two without injury. The team assisted with securing the vehicle and getting it towed out of the water without incident.

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Eric Hollingsworth and Bob Canciglia were in the vehicle, with Eric driving. They stated they were going to the boat ramp to empty the trash cans as they do each week. They stated they had driven earlier in the week in the water and it wasn't so deep then. They started into the water and at some point realized the water was too deep, so they stopped and attempted to go in reverse.

The truck stalled and Eric was unable to get it started again. The water continued to rise and started entering the passenger compartment. The water rose more and they retreated to the exterior and stood on the tool boxes. They then called for help and we were then notified.

Both occupants were removed from the vehicle without injury.

Tom Hartman, the agency mechanic, was on scene. He had Capt. Wingate take the vehicle to the shop where he would immediately do a fluid change and service to hopefully prevent any possible damage to the transmission or rear axle.

There were no injuries to deputies and no other equipment damage."

On December 18 a narrative provided by the Public Works Department stated in relevant part, the following:

Mr. Canciglia was in a supervisory position over employee Eric Hollingsworth at the time of the incident. Mr. Canciglia's failure to make a reasonable decision to enter a flooded area in a county vehicle resulted in himself and another employee being put in life threatening situation.

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This incident triggered a rescue situation with Columbia County Sheriff's Office having to bring their water rescue team to retrieve employees and equipment.

Mr. Canciglia's negligence resulted in the loss of county property excess $100. The failure of the supervisor to enforce safety and the willful disregard in his job performance endangered another employee.

Mr. Canciglia was well aware of what conditions the road would be in as I discussed it with him earlier in the week on Monday, December 10, 2018.

As in most County documents, it is impossible to determine from the signatures the names of the individuals signing them and the County neither provides space to print names, nor does it require it.


Robert Canciglia was demoted from his supervisory position as a Landscape Supervisor to a Maintenance Tech with a comparable decrease in pay from $16.85hr to $10.98hr.

The driver, Eric Hollingsworth, was found to "have failed to use sound judgment while operating a County vehicle... which resulted in property damage over $100."

Mr. Hollingsworth received a 5 day suspension without pay.

The County Truck

It is unknown at this time if Mr. Hartman, the agency mechanic, was able to get the vehicle running again.

Incident reports and narratives were abridged. Photos provided by Public Works and the Sheriff's Office

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