Pepin Academies principal dies in jet ski crash

Image 1 of 4

Authorities have identified the man who was killed in a jet ski crash in Clearwater on Saturday.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officials said a jet ski and center-console boat collided on the intercostal waterway near Bay Esplanade, a residential street close to Moonshine Island. The 911 call came from a home at 941 Bay Esplanade, officials said.

A 52-year-old man, identified as Craig Butz, and a 4-year-old girl were riding on the jet ski when it was hit by the boat shortly before 5 p.m.

Butz was rushed to Morton Plant Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased. The child was airlifted to Bayfront Hospital in critical condition.

Butz was the principal of Pepin Academies, which has three charter schools in the Tampa Bay area.

Records show that the home on Bay Esplanade is connected to Thomas Pepin, the CEO of Pepin Distributing Company. It was recently owned by the "Thomas A. Pepin Revocable Trust."

The Chairman of the Pepin Academies Hillsborough Campuses, Dr. Jeff Skowronek, released a statement on behalf of Pepin Academies concerning Butz' death:

“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the unexpected and tragic loss of Pepin Academies’ Executive Director, Dr. Craig Butz. In my four years working with Dr. Butz, he advanced the mission of Pepin Academies tenfold. His wisdom and intelligence was matched by his passion and exuberance for the staff and students of our schools. He was a leader, a champion, and a friend. The pain of his loss, both professionally and personally, will be felt for an eternity. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, especially his young daughter Teagan who remains in critical condition.  We ask that their privacy be respected during this sad and difficult time. Pepin Academies will have bereavement specialists at the school on Monday to help grieving students and staff cope with this tragic loss.”

The president of Pepin Distributing Company, Tom Pepin, also released a statement:

“The Pepin family is devastated by this tragic accident. Craig was not only a respected and dedicated educator, but also a great father and friend. Under his inspired leadership, Pepin Academies has grown to better the lives of students with learning-related disabilities. Craig was a wonderful and infectious educator, whose passion for his staff and students was evident every day. He inspired countless students to realize their full potential and achieve their goals, both in and outside of the classroom.

“I am heartbroken and ask everyone to pray that Teagan can make a full recovery.”

It's unclear what led up to the crash. FWC said it is actively investigating the incident.