Homeless veteran found dead in Bradenton floodwaters

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A man was found dead in the flooding that ravaged Bradenton on Sunday.

Deputies say at around 8:45 p.m., a woman called to say she had found the man on Whitfield Ave. and 43rd Court East

"I would hate to hear one of my family members passed away that way," said Spencer, who found the man and his tipped-over wheelchair. "I ran in, grabbed my phone, dialed 911.

The floodwaters had risen all day.

"At one point it had gotten up to the garage," she said. "There was a car over on its side over here. All day we were coming out and monitoring the water level."

At first, she didn't realize what she saw in the water was a wheelchair.

"I thought that my neighbor had a garbage can out there, and I thought that is kind of silly. It was in the water, it was going to float away. I looked a little harder and I realized it looked like a wheelchair."

She pulled the man to the driveway, and, to her astonishment, recognized him as a homeless veteran.

"I have seen him up by McDonald's, in his wheelchair. I bought him a hamburger once."

She did what she could.

"I started chest compressions, but he was cold. His eyes were open, I knew he was gone. But I had to try."

Manatee County deputies are investigating. An autopsy will be done Tuesday.

"It could have been just a simple medical episode, or it could be that he fell out of his wheelchair and drowned," said spokesman David Bristow.

Angela Spencer will never forget this horrible find, steps from her own home.

The end of the unidentified man's journey, from serving his country, to hard times, to this.

"We should be taking better care of our veterans," she said. "If he has any family, I would hate to hear that one of my family members passed away that way."