Fishing boat captain who died trying to save sea turtle remembered as gentle giant

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The fishing community in Virginia Beach is devastated following the untimely death of beloved charter boat captain Bill Jenkins.

Jenkins, 53 years old, died Thursday during a fishing trip, shortly after attempting to save the life of a sea turtle tangled in a rope.

According to witnesses, Jenkins jumped in the Atlantic Ocean two miles off the Virginia Beach Oceanfront when he spotted the sea turtle. At some point, he began to struggle in the water. Others on his boat, The Legacy, jumped in to help but they were unable to pull him back on board. They called for help and the crew of a police boat, with police and firefighters on board, was able to pull Jenkins onboard.

“People on the boat saw the struggle — they called 911. A few people jumped in and tried to assist him,” said police spokesperson Linda Kuehn. The rescue crew administered CPR and transported Jenkins to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

On Friday at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, staff and fellow captains were stunned to know the man affectionately known as Captain Bill was dead.

“When I first received the news, I was speechless — flabbergasted,” said dock hand Jimmy Martin. His partner on the dock, Jacob Walters, called Captain Bill is his favorite captain.

“Every time we helped him tie him up, he’d throw us a couple of bucks. Really great guy,” said Walters.

Duane Matthews, captain of the boat Finagain, says the entire Fishing Center family will miss Captain Bill.

“Everbody loved Bill to death; he was always there for everybody,” Matthews said.

Jenkins also owned the Captain’s Choice Seafood fish market in Virginia Beach.

Not only is Jenkins’ death a loss to the fishing community, this is also a loss for the law enforcement community. Jenkins served in the Virginia Beach Police Department from 2002-2011 as a patrolman on the Oceanfront. Officers say if you met Bill Jenkins, you would not forget his larger-than-life personality and his spirit of generosity.

“He was considered a gentle giant — he was a big man — not only in body but in spirit and in heart, said Kuehn.

Jenkins left the police department after nine years due to medical issues. An autopsy will determine his cause of death.

He is survived by his wife, two children, three stepchildren, and two step-grandchildren.

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