INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – A man lying motionless on a surfboard pulled from the ocean by lifeguards near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort was later found with gunshot wounds to the head, firefighters and sheriff’s office officials said .
Emergency dispatchers were called around 10 a.m. Thursday by rescuers to an unconscious man being brought ashore, Indian River County Sheriff’s Lt. Joe Abollo said.
“Someone saw that he was on the board without moving,” Abollo said.
A person described as a kayaker helped pull the man to shore on the surfboard, Abollo said.
It wasn’t until the man was assessed at a hospital that it was discovered he had a gunshot wound, prompting the involvement of deputies and detectives, Abollo said.
At around 10:45 a.m., he said they went to Wabasso Beach Park, 1820 Wabasso Beach Road, to begin the investigation and left at around 3:30 p.m.
County Beach Park is just north of the resort town on the A1A state road and only a short walk from its seaside seating area.
The man was described as in his 60s and was first seen by station rescuers before Indian River County Fire Department rescue crews arrived and took him to hospital HCA Lawnwood of Fort Pierce, Deputy Battalion Chief David Kiernan said.
“(He) may have had a small gunshot wound to his mouth,” Kiernan said.
When firefighters gathered details of the incident, he said none of those interviewed said they saw the man enter the water, heard a gunshot or found a weapon.
Abollo said detectives were unsure where the man was when the gun was fired.
He said detectives believe the gunshot wound was self-inflicted, but a final determination will come from the investigation.
He also said there were, so far, no witnesses to the shooting.
At around 5 p.m. Thursday, the man was in critical condition in hospital, Abollo said.
He did not reveal the man’s age or name, but said he was a local man and not staying at the resort.
He said no weapon was found and the investigation was ongoing.
Wabasso Beach Park is patrolled by county lifeguards from 9:10 a.m. to 4:50 p.m., according to county park information.
Lifeguard officials could not be reached for comment.
Corey Arwood is a breaking news reporter for TCPalm. Follow Corey on Twitter @coreyarwoodor contact him by phone at 772-978-2246.