Southlake man dies after falling from Florida hotel balcony

03/20/2014 10:32 AM

03/20/2014 10:33 AM

An investigation continued Thursday in the death of a Southlake man who fell from a 12th floor balcony of a Panama City Beach, Fla., hotel where he was chaperoning his daughter and other spring breakers, authorities said.

Panama City Beach police identified the man as Thomas H. Saunders, 62. He was pronounced dead at the scene Wednesday morning.

Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman said Thursday that an investigation continued on the circumstances that led Saunders to fall, but investigators did not suspect foul play. Nor was alcohol believed to be a factor.

Panama City Beach police were called to the Holiday Inn Resort, 11127 Front Beach Road, at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday on a report of a fall from a balcony. Patrol officers found Saunders on the roof of the first floor.

“Employees and a security guard heard a noise and called when they realized what had happened,” said Panama City Beach police Capt. Robert Clarkson.

Saunders and his girlfriend had been at the hotel chaperoning his 18-year-old daughter and three friends during spring break, Clarkson said.

His daughter and her friends were asleep when Saunders fell, Panama City Beach police said.

“His girlfriend was on a balcony facing the water and he was on a balcony that faced Front Beach Road,” Clarkson said. “No one heard anything on that floor.”

Officials at the Holiday Inn indicated that the incident was an accident.

“Apparently this is a medical-related accident. It was not spring break-related and it was not drug- or alcohol-related,” said Julie Hilton, vice president of Hilton Inc. “We don’t know of anything that could have been done. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”

According to his Facebook page, Saunders was an American Airlines pilot who had attended Purdue University. He lived in Southlake, but he was from New London, Ohio.

“American Airlines is saddened to learn of the death of Capt. Thomas “Tommy” Saunders, who had been a pilot with American for more than 35 years,” said American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller in a Thursday email. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Capt. Saunders’ family.”

This report includes information from The News Herald of Panama City.

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